Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My "Baseball Peeps"

Tomorrow night is Sam's last baseball game at Panther Field.  Senior night.  This is it.

I still remember his first game at Panther Field.  He was 14 years old.  His division of the Wally Hall Tournament was played there that year....and he stepped on that field with his "Arkansas Cubs" team.  I remember this field....looking at it in awe.   It seemed to swallow them up.  So big.  I remember him so excited to dream of playing there.  For all of his "baseball life" he dreamed of being a Benton Panther.  All the travel, the money spent, the lessons, the time....being a "Panther" was the goal.

I remember those games.....that "Coach B" was there watching.  And when my Sam caught a ball....or made a play....or even struck out....I glanced to see if he was looking.  IF Sam impressed him at all.  Because, Sam SO MUCH wanted to be a Panther.

Let me go back though, and tell you what this game brought into our lives.  Friends.  Best friends.  In fact, I have fellow baseball parents on my kids' "in case of emergency and you can't reach mom..." form at the school.  Even further, one of them can sign for my medical records....at all of my many doctors.

We have been through so much together.  Death, divorce, illness, marriages, job changes, moves, and soon to be "births."  :)  At any given moment, I can pick up the phone and most likely have no less than 10 people I could call for help....for anything.  Anytime. (Probably more.)  We have shared a world record of laughs together.  And almost as many tears.  A few cuss words, lots of miles of across several states, quite a few hotels, so many meals, and friends.....TONS of prayer.  I know these people genuinely celebrate our victories with us....and grieve our hurts.  Each of us take it personally, when someone hurts one of "us."

Life has sometimes taken us in different directions....but there is a bond, and a love, that this group....THIS family....shares.  My son (AND his little sister) share lots of mommas.  And...thank GOD... lots of dads.  No matter how much time passes, we have an understanding....a true loyalty....that few understand.  We have raised these kiddos in the company of loving, Christian friends.  And, together....we have survived all that life has thrown at us.

I get it that few understand.  I've written about my baseball family before.....but there just aren't words to express how I know without a shadow of a doubt that God's fingerprints were all OVER this group and our journey.  Yes, we have lots of trophies under our belt....even a state championship....that I can remember like it was yesterday. 

 But, what I remember most? 

Is the times I received a text from a fellow parent that he saw Sam's pic in the paper.  

Or to see if Sydney made the dance team.  

Or how they cheered for Sam in football (and they didn't even have a player out there.) 

How they held my hand through my illness.  

Showed up to clean my house, and took laundry home.  

How they took me to chemo....and sat outside the surgery door with me.  

How God placed me at a baseball game....the very day of my diagnosis.  And they knew....before my own children knew.  

How they circled in prayer and lifted me up, following a game. 

How they showed up with orange slushies and "tator tot casseroles" because they knew it was a family fave.

When I found a bottle of nail polish in my mailbox, because I mentioned loving the color.  

How a mom of all boys purchased a "first day of school" outfit for my Sydney....because they knew how important that was "to a girl."

When they snap pics of my child....and share them...because they are ALL our boys.  Not just our own.

That when ANYONE can say, "Pray for me", and we KNOW that heads are bowed all over town.

When they pitched in and took my kiddos to and fro....when I wasn't able.

How two of the "little brothers" donated to us in lieu of gifts at their birthday party.

And how a "big brother" gave Sambo a ride to football....for weeks....because I wasn't able.

And when I'm late to a game...my phone sounds like a slot machine going off with all of texts coming in about an awesome play my Sam just made.

When I see one of the boys....they hug me....and hang on for a minute, and say, "Hi momma"....

How any of them can spot in a "New York" minute....when I've had a bad day, or if my heart is hurting.  They can ask, hug or just shoot me a "knowing look"....letting me know they love me.  That they care.

And the times I can't be there, and Sam needs a ride or a few bucks....he can ask anyone to spot him.....and they GENUINELY don't mind.

How one man's aunt....is EVERYONE's Aunt.  

How when I look across the church on Sunday morning....and meet eyes with most all of them....

All the little "inside things"....like "hominy, hominy, hominy" are just a touch of the memories that this group has created just loving one another.  Times we will all carry with us forever.
The moms, the dads, the boys, the little brothers/sisters.....the celebrations and victories, and the heartbreak and sadness.  These men who have been such an inspiration in my son's life.....when he needed it so.  They were more than coaches.  It's all just a wrapped up in a beautiful little package that I know came straight from God.

Some of our "family" are miles away.  Some are across town at that "other school."  :)  Some have moved on to other sports. Some were ripped from us physically... but are forever a part of "US."  Still others have been added to our fold.  The "melting pot" of Panther Baseball.  Either with us from the age of 7.....or just joining us this season....we all know who and where we are.  And what we mean to each other.  We won the game.  For sure.

I could write about our record.  I could tell you all the accolades.  I could even fill this page with sadness.  But as I enter the gates of Panther Field tomorrow night for Senior night.  The very field where my Sam longed to play since he was a little boy.  I will remember the journey.  Not the destination.  For the journey was one of the greatest blessings our family has ever known.

I'll leave the post with a few of my favorite memories...

As these boys begin anew going separate directions....I know that our families will forever be connected from this little game.  

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

For the love of the game,


There's nothing quite like a small southern town..
When family and friends all gather around.
Shouting and cheering and clapping their hands --
Hot dogs, and popcorn, and pure joy fill the stands.

Tonight we as Panthers.... will walk in side by side.
We were Cubs, and Bobcats, and All-Stars abide.
A brother on my left and one on my right.
You bet I'll protect him with my heart, soul, and might.

We learned as young boys how to catch and to hit.
It’s all a part of the game, you see……that Panther Baseball grit.
We are “Linked by our Chains”…..which are hung by the dugout door…
A reminder to us that … (T)ogether (E)veryone (A)chieves (M)ore!

Because of this game, our hearts know true love…
For Our brothers, our Coaches, and our Heavenly Father above.
They have led us and taught us, turned us boys into men.
We are playing tonight, knowing what is REALLY a "win."

Our last night as Seniors, but forever Panthers stand tall....
And because our “ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING”….we know we won’t fall.
We hope they'll never forget our Senior Team,
Our legacy, our faith - We're the "Class of '15!”

Panthers forever...even when the last pitch is thrown.
It's a memory, a blessing, a feeling we all know.
So tonight as we walk out of the Panther Den to fight….
Never EVER forget, boys....these "Senior Night Lights."
                                                                                                       - t. baker