Now the little boy doesn’t say a word, picks up his ball he is undeterred.
Says, “I am the greatest that there has ever been”
And he grits his teeth and he tries again.
And the ball goes up and the ball comes down,
Swings his bat all the way around
The world so still you can hear the sound, the baseball falls to the ground.
-“The Greatest,” Kenny Rogers
I remember Jakey as a toddler falling in love with baseball. I can picture him in a long sleeved t-shirt, bare skinny legs squatted down, diaper dragging the ground. He was catcher, his form perfect even as a tot. He wore a glove. He called imaginary games. He made them up as he played each position in turn. When he was hitter, he’d swing an imaginary bat and run “the bases,” from the couch to the chair, down the hall, and then he’d slide into home. Every time. He hit a lot of imaginary grand slams.
Jakey always wanted to play baseball.
As a toddler, Jakey idolized our brother Ben. Ben, eight years his senior, played Little League. Jakey is a busy kid (busy being a nice way of saying HYPERACTIVE!), but he could sit and watch a baseball game. He could memorize plays and retell the stories of the highs and lows of a game with detail and passion. He loved Ben’s games. When Ben broke his arm sliding into third, Jakey announced, “When I grow up, I will break my arm sliding into third.”
Saturday was Jakey’s second ever Little League game. Ben no longer plays baseball, not having made the varsity cut this year, but he coaches Jake’s team. Seeing the two of them make this baseball effort together amazed me on Saturday. I watched Ben, who fueled Jake’s dream when he was a toddler. As he coached, he gave that dream legs to run. I watched Jake, a natural athlete, as he pitched and caught, hit and ran. The boy was made to play sports of some sort, and he owns a baseball field as much as an eight-year-old can.
Ben taught me something Saturday. He didn’t realize he was leading Jakey when he was a little kid playing ball himself, but in giving his all and loving the game, he handed Jakey a desire to become something more than he was at the time. That’s leadership.
Jakey taught me something Saturday too. He maybe doesn’t know he is stepping into a dream that has been germinating in him for half a dozen years. But he is. And he is doing it with confidence and boldness and expectancy. He believes he is capable of greatness; he is willing to work hard to get there. That’s demonstrating the heart that, if he chooses to remain teachable, will lead him to a passionate maturity. That’s the good kind of life.