This past weekend my son, Michael, showed me how tough he is.
He plays Junior Varsity (JV) baseball for his school, Prattville Christian Academy (PCA). His mother and I are so proud of him. So far he has been a starter his first year playing JV baseball. A seventh grader does not always get a chance to start. Michael plays catcher, first base and left field.
During a tournament in Troy, Alabama, at Pike Liberal Arts School on Friday night, he was playing first base. A batter popped the ball that seemed to be fading foul to the fence. Michael took off after it. If it didn’t go over the fence, it was going to be a very tight play at the fence. I was Assistant Coach for this team watching from the dugout on the third base line.
I saw the ball fading off and Michael running to get under it and the fence approaching fast. Within a second, the ball was in the glove and Michael’s face was in the fence. The batter was out!
When the team came over the to dugout, Michael appeared to have something on his nose. When I got closer, I saw the damage. The end of his nose was purple and bleeding. For some kids, that would have been the end of the day for them. Michael just wiped his nose off and got ready to bat. A doctor visit later determined that he had not broken his nose, but his new nickname of “Rudolph” was starting to stick.
Saturday morning came and with a 90 percent chance of rain, there was no way we were going to finish the tourney. I began to make plans for the day. It would start with me going back to bed and then some stuff after that.
At 8:20 am, I received a call from one of the coaches. We would play and the bus would leave at 9:30 am. Everything came into focus. I was barely awake myself and Michael was dead asleep. I went into panic mode. I woke Michael and explained that we both would have to dress, eat and make it to the bus in 1 hour. I probably need to mention that my son’s school is in Prattville, Alabama and we live on the far (away) side of Wetumpka, Alabama. Both cities are suburban settlements to Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama. PCA is about 30 minutes from our house.
To my surprise we both dressed (without showers), went by McDonalds, and made it to the school at exactly 9:30. It was raining and Athletic Director Coach Peak did not hold out a lot of hope that we would play. He said he would call me when they got there and let me know if I should make the trip to Troy, Alabama, an hour and a half drive from PCA or just meet the bus when it returned.
The games would be played as it was overcast and windy in Troy, but not rainy.
I made it to Pike Liberal in plenty of time and got set to watch my son play baseball. This is one the greatest joys in my life.
Michael emerged from the dugout with catcher’s gear on. I was already exited. During the first inning, a popped ball went fading towards the backstop, which was long net thankfully. Michael, again, took off to get under it, caught it, and hit the two-foot wall at the base of the net. I heard a thud upon impact. I think it was his shin guards hitting the concrete blocks that made up the wall. Coach Peak yelled out from the dugout, “Don’t make it look so hard!” We laughed and Michael got right back into position.
Late in the game, Michael was still playing catcher, the ball was hit to right field. A runner on second base was going to try to make it home. Michael crouched down at home awaiting the ball. It was a position he had been in before. The ball came in on a bounce. Michael had the ball and turned to make the tag when the base runner decided to dive head-first into the plate. As he did and Michael was leaning in for the tag, the runners legs drew in and met Michael’s head which was still being protected with his hockey-style face mask. The collision jerked Michael’s head back and into his body so that the mask cut his left cheek and skin over his right collar bone. The ball fell out, the mask came off and Michael rolled over on his back not moving. The batter was called out for the improper slide at home. A fact that Michael did not know until the next day.
Michael lay on the dirt around home plate for several minutes with coaches from both sides attending to him. He later said his neck and shoulders down his back were tingling. Then he did something that impressed me.
He got up and, while the coaches were urging him to go to the dugout for a break, he picked up his face mask and motioned to him that he wanted to keep playing. Some of the mothers around me were wondering why I had not moved from the bleachers. Being a teenager once myself, I knew that the kiss of death for the teen-aged boy is to get injured on the field and have your parent(s) rush onto the field to tend to the baby. I quietly waited until after the game to check on him.
He finished the game, still giving 100 percent and played the second game in left field making a couple of great catches. After getting the OK from a doctor the next morning, Michael commented that he was glad Coach Peak and his team saw him take a lick and keep going. He is the toughest kid I know and, of course, I and his mother love him and continue to be impressed with him.