Tonight I went to watch my son's team play baseball. They were 0 and 4 going into tonight's game and were up against an undefeated team with a couple of pitchers who looked like they were in the majors instead of 7th or 8th grade. I arrived at the bottom of the second inning and we were down seven nothing.
By the bottom of the 4th we were down twelve nothing and the parents began to discuss what the current slaughter rule was. For the record, it's up by 15 in the 5th. We weren't far off. The boys looked lifeless out on the field and honestly that was more disturbing than the score. They seemed resigned to their impending defeat. I thought about going home to play board games with my daughters. But I prayed and I stayed.
There are a lot of engaged parents on this team which is nice. Many of them make an effort to watch every game, or at least a few innings since they may have other kids on other fields. So we did our part to call our boys over and give them pep talks which consisted mostly of encouraging them not to give up, to have some fun, but above all to be a team - we pleaded with them to talk to each other, to pep each other up, to rally.
ral·ly 1 (rl)
v. ral·lied, ral·ly·ing, ral·lies
1. To call together for a common purpose; assemble: rally troops at a parade ground.
2. To reassemble and restore to order: rally scattered forces.
3. To rouse or revive from inactivity or decline: paused to refresh themselves and rally their strength.
4. To recover abruptly from a setback or disadvantage: The stock market declined, then rallied. The home team rallied in the ninth inning to win the game.
One of the kids took our urging to heart and even though he began the next inning on the bench, he called out encouragement to each of his teammates. We quickly named him our new favorite player. Even over our own sons. Next thing you know, we're at bat again and we bring one in. Phew it's not a shut-out. Then another two cross the plate before the third out. Okay. That's better. Our guys take the field and next thing you know, three up, three down and we're back to the plate.
Soon two more of our kids start chattering to each other and then a third. One at a time we get on base, steal a couple and bring some more across home plate. Now it's a game - we're only down three, then two, then one. My son is 3 for 4 - his best game ever for hitting. I tell him at his last at bat if he gets on base we're going to Dairy Queen for sure, but the truth is he's going to DQ either way because he's got so much heart right now and has given it his all and I am so proud of all of them for not playing dead.
Our boys revive, and look alert. We see their posture change as they realize they have a shot at winning. Their confidence is contagious and they start making plays they had been missing all night. The other team puts another one on the board but we're still only down two.
We tie it.
Then we go ahead.
Then we get an insurance run.
Then it's all up to the defense. And they are baseball ready , focused, everyone's cheering on the pitcher who's dominating the plate. Only one kid gets on, but he steals and we're not out of it yet. But we don't give up and we don't give in. It's down to the last out and this great hitter on the other team who represents the tying run is up - he hits a high pop up behind 3rd plate and one of our smaller kids is running backwards to get underneath it and makes a spectacular catch on his back to win the game.
I wish I had my camera for what happened next. Our whole team running to third base, the first one there lifts the kid in the air and hugs him as if they'd won the pennant and soon a huddle of yellow jerseys are circled around jumping and cheering after winning their first game. But it doesn't last long, because they quickly come in and line up for the high-five procession with the other team, congratulating them on a great game, patting former teammates on the back like great sportsmen and smiling ear to ear.
I ran to give the coach a big kiss (it's okay, I'm married to him) for never losing his cool and finding something positive to say to each and every kid on the team. We circled around for the post game speech and listened as it was explained there couldn't possibly be one game ball given for what the whole team accomplished tonight in the best rally we've seen in little league.
Then we went to Dairy Queen.