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Running the Bases

There we were, at a little league game. We had finally gotten to the level where the children do their own pitching, and the coaches do all the hand-signals and 'verbal coaching'..

Of course the parents get to act as coaches, either as "assistants" or from the stands in the official capacity given them by the phrase "that's my boy"!

It was a close game, and we were in the third inning. My son was coming up to bat, again. This was back in the years when he came to the plate determined to get a walk, because it was much easier than learning how to bat. He wasn't ready to learn to bat, and we didn't push him. He was having fun just being a part of the team.

Sure enough, my son draws a walk. Excited, he runs down to first base. Now he's ready to do what he loves doing most: advancing bases on passed balls and wild pitches. As soon as the ball goes past the catcher, my son normally tears of for the next base. Sometimes he waits for the coach to signal the 'steal', and sometimes he goes on his own. He loves running the bases.

With that mindset, he gets ready as the first pitch heads toward home plate, but something unusual happens. It's a swing and a line drive into right field! My son runs toward second at top speed (don't ask how fast that is, because it isn't very fast) and stops on the base. He turns to watch the right fielder chase the ball to the fence. There is screaming and yelling from both benches, both sets of coaches and both sets of parents. Why? Well, one side is yelling for the players to setup getting the runner out on first, because he's halfway between first and my son standing and observing everything on second base. The other side is yelling for joy at the hit AND yelling at the runner (?) on second base who is not running!

Oops. By the time the dust, excitement and volume settle down, both runners are safe, (at first and at second) and  our coach has less hair and voice, as do most of the parents. Finally, the coach on third base gets my son's attention, and pounding his chest with his open arm very clearly gets the point across "WATCH ME!".

Not surprisingly the first pitch to the next batter goes past the catcher, and our coach screams for the steal. So? The parents are all screaming at the pitcher, the catcher, the runners or the batter (to get out of the batter's box in case a runner will be coming to the plate). The noise level is loud, there is no throw made, and both runners advance. My son is now on third base, standing next to and listening to the coach who has his hand on my son's back, talking directly into his ear. My son nods his head.

What happens next? The very next pitch also goes past the catcher, but this time the pitcher comes running in to take the throw. The batter steps back out of the box, and the catcher's mask flies as he chases that ball. The runners are both running. The catcher gets the ball back to the pitcher in plenty of time for the pitcher to catch it, turn to face my son, and grin in anticipation of the "easy out". Oh yes, the screaming is intense.

Well, in contrast to the way he behaved when he stopped on second base only two pitches ago, my son executes a near perfect slide into the plate, which the pitcher didn't expect. As his foot hits the glove, the ball pops out, and the umpire's "Safe" call is barely audible over the noise of the crowd.

My son scored what turned out to be the game-winning run, because he slid into home plate exactly the way the coach had just reminded him. After the game, I asked my son what happened at second base.

"I wasn't thinking. I forgot about the batter, and was just watching the fielder."

"Did you hear the coach yelling at you?"

"No, there were lots of people yelling, I couldn't really hear the coach at all."

"Why was the slide into home plate so good?"

"I just did what the coach told me, and he was right. I got low, and kicked the ball out of the glove as I came in. Just like he said."

That's when I came in with my own "pitch":

"Son, life is like this game. If you can't hear the coach's voice, and you don't know what the coach wants you to do, you won't do very well at all. But, if you can hear the coach's voice, recognize it from all the other screaming voices around you, understand what he wants and do it, like you did sliding home, you will do much better. Not only that, son, but I am not your coach. I am only an assistant who helps God teach you what's really important in this life. You can win if you learn to listen to your coach in life, and that's God."

"Cool, dad. They gave me the game ball for that slide. Can we go to Diary Queen now?"

"Yes, and you'll get the game ball in life for the same reason. Learn your coach's voice in this game, and in life, and you'll get more game balls and Oreo Blizzards."

I hope that you, my dear reader, can also hear your coach's voice, when He calls to you. Remember, He's alive, and wants to have a wonderful, fun relationship with you, too.