What I Hold in My Hands

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game very day, and that’s the way baseball is.” (Bullet Bob Feller).

Everyone has a really weird habit — some more obvious than others. One of mine is that just about every day of my life I hold onto a baseball. This one has been with me for the last seventeen years since I caught it in the bleachers of a St. Louis Cardinals game. I’ve never stopped to consider the reasons why I hold onto it while I work everyday. Here’s my chance!

Certainly, and most obviously it bears the marks of my stresses and anxieties. Fingernails have found their way repeatedly into and under the leather. I also love it’s feeling in my hand, which help me think better about whatever I’m doing. It’s a little bit like a pacifier for an ADD affected guy like me, no doubt.

More importantly, the ball (and the game) hold deeper levels of sacred memories for me. In little league at River Park, I was a good-fielding third baseman and average at best at the plate. I blended in, and more often than not didn’t come through in big moments, except one day, one life-changing day when our game got moved to thillens stadium which had a real, lit up scoreboard, bleachers, a snack bar and lights! In the top of the seventh, I stopped a hard hit ball and we held on to a tie. Bottom of the seventh, I closed my eyes and pulled one down the line and drove in the winning run! That night remains for me a holy moment. Mom and Dad took me in their arms and the team over to the dairy bar for ice cream. Baseball!

Other memories come as I scratch the seams, this one of my first trip to Wrigley field with my cousin Tom — walking up the stairs and seeing that field for the first time, and being so excited when Tom told me his father saw Babe Ruth there years ago. Or the time I broke our neighbor’s window while we were playing running bases in the alley. The endless long slogs through summers with the cubs, and endless games of wiffle ball and “pinners” against the garage door. Watching my high school buddy Israel Sanchez (who eventually became a big leaguer) strike out fifteen in a row. Seeing “Field of Dreams”— and sitting in a puddle of tears longing to play catch with my dad. Playing catch with my girls — and waiting 2 hours in line with Hannah to get an autograph from Aramis Ramirez, who left just before we got to him! Church softball with Steve Fogel waving me around third. And always, always, Barnabys afterward! One hundred years of “lovable losers” until late one night in 2016 when we jumped for joy around the room.

Most of all, though, it’s the steady nature of baseball, how it holds the days of our lives, our “coming in and going out” as the Psalm says it. As Bob Feller (who I met and sat with in the stands) once said it, “Every day is a new opportunity.” Or as Terence Mann said to Ray in Field of Dreams, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.”

The well-worn and scuffed up ball on my desk and in my hands holds my story. Like the game is life with all its ups and downs — tragedies (think black cat, 1969 Mets), Glorious days (think cubs beating Phillies 23-22 in 1979) when warm summer breezes blow from the south, rainouts (do-overs, that’s grace), double-headers (“Let’s play two” Ernie says!) and always, always opening day, when we’re in first place!

The baseball is a good friend, a steady companion like the game. And this, a metaphor for how I understand God’s presence through life’s journey.

Go, Cubs, Go!

PETER HAWKINSON

One thought on “What I Hold in My Hands

  1. Pete.. love the reflection…and that you remember that 23-22 game as a Cub win…and that you got to witness greatness in Israel Sanchez, only had the pleasure of meeting him, not being a teammate.

    Like

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