The Love of the Game

 In Culture, Family, Fred's Blog, Giving, People, Philanthropy, Relationships, Service, Young Givers

Listen to “The Love of the Game” by Fred Smith

 

What is it about baseball? I’ve patiently sat through a few games and, honestly, I’ve never understood the attraction. I’ve read books on the game (mostly during the game) and tried my best to capture the excitement George Will feels when he writes, “Baseball is Heaven’s gift to mortals.” Surely, if someone as acerbic as George Will gets emotional about baseball then I should find some stirring in my own soul. I never have.

My son-in-law Terry loves baseball. He played in college and now coaches. When we go to Kerrville to visit the family, I read the sports page on our way so I will not sound as ignorant about baseball as I really am. Sometimes I’ll say, “How about them Cowboys!” just for fun.

Terry and I traveled together to the Dominican Republic to visit schools in Santiago and microfinance sites near Santo Domingo. It was his first time to the DR and he went with me partly because the country produces some of the finest ballplayers in the sport. We also had the opportunity to visit the community center that former Boston Red Sox star Pedro Martinez and his wife, Carolina, have built for kids there.

The story I am going to tell is not a lesson to be learned or sermon to be preached, nor is it a cure for poverty or a grand strategy. It is a snapshot, a moment that lasted 20 minutes but has stayed with all of us who were there to see it.

We were standing on a dirt road outside a small store started with a microloan when a scuffed-up baseball rolled to a stop next to Terry’s feet. He glanced down and then looked to see where it came from. There was a teenage boy with a glove standing about 60 feet away, which as it turns out is the distance between a pitcher’s mound and home plate.

One of the women in our group picked up the ball, handed it to Terry and said, “Throw it back.” He did and that’s when the magic began.

Terry was handed a worn glove. They started with a few slow pitches but soon began throwing harder. Taking cues from each other in the language of the sport, Terry started signaling for different pitches: sliders, curve balls, fast balls and change-ups. The kid knew exactly what to do without a word being exchanged  ̶  just signs.

The whole group was mesmerized. There was a brief suspension of everything else we had come to do and learn. There was nothing charitable about it. No one said a word about how gracious Terry was or how blessed the kid was for the attention. We were watching two people in love with a sport. I was seeing for the first time why people love baseball. How could I have missed that?

C.S Lewis wrote about this kind of love: phileo. It is that love between people when sharing a deep common interest but it’s not being in love with each other. “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too?’”  It’s a discovery and a surprise.

I can’t think of a better way to describe what we watched that afternoon. It was a delight to see two amateurs, which literally means “those who do it for the love of it.” What drew them together was their love of the game.

On the last evening of the trip, our group took some time to talk about what had been our high points of the week. You already know what mine was but, surprisingly, it was not just me. Others felt the same.

Someone said, “The moment when Terry threw the ball back and then put on the glove was the perfect picture of what we want to do here. We want to be amateurs who share a mutual love for the game – the game of building something together.”

Years ago Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, pulled me up short when I told him I loved Habitat’s mission of building houses. He said, “That’s not our mission. That’s our means. Our mission is building partnerships with God’s people and we use houses to do that.”

Terry understood this instinctively because he not only loves baseball but is also a great coach. He saw a kid with a gift and by simply playing his natural part pulled all of us into the game.

Art by Edward Laning

This is an excerpt from “Where The Light Divides

 

More Posts
Showing 16 comments
  • Avatar
    Kerry Hasenbalg
    Reply

    Fred, I absolutely love this blog post! Just beautiful, and speaks to the core of us all who are adults- that core being the part that is still the free and hopeful child within longing with connectivity through play! To become friends is to discover a common love within one another. Yes, yes, “amateur” and “phileo” are what make up the philanthropist being fueled by altruism!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Kerry. We were with Ray and Joan Conn last week in Philadelphia and Joan wanted me to know more about you and your life. That is why I listened to the podcast this week.

  • Avatar
    Kerry Hasenbalg
    Reply

    Thinking of you with Ray and Joan Conn brings to mind the verse Malachi 3:16, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.”
    I hope the podcast was a blessing. Kerry

  • Avatar
    John Kelly
    Reply

    I love this. I grew up playing ball from seven years old through high school. I got the bug from my Mom, who’s dad, my grandfather, was one of the best catchers of the Pacific Coast League (minor league) until a injury turned him into being a scout for the Cincinnati Reds. Mom used to travel with him on scouting trips and knew all the stats as a little girl. The moment you’ve captured here is perfect. It’s more about what was unsaid between the boy and Terry as they threw the ball to each other that spoke volumes to me. I Understood. Thanks for this. For the Love of the game is exactly right.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. What years would he have scouted for Cincinnati? I grew up there in the 50’s and actually followed baseball then.

      • Avatar
        John Kelly
        Reply

        This was earlier. Would have been early 30’s through the 40’s.

        • Fred Smith
          Fred Smith
          Reply

          Yes, that’s when they were the Redlegs.

  • Avatar
    David Valle
    Reply

    Fred, thank you for sharing this wonderful story! I am always amazed how people are touched is different ways. The love of the game is what God used to fuel and begin the Microfinance ministry in the Dominican Republic. “The loans are our means”

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Dave. Yes, your work there has been an inspiration to so many of us. Terry will be thrilled that you read this!

  • Avatar
    Marion Wells
    Reply

    What a beautiful story Fred! And a reminder that God knows just what connection each of us needs. All we need to do is be open to what He is eager to reveal to us if we will only watch and listen. Blessings to you!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Marion! The older I get the more I watch and listen.

  • Avatar
    frank tillapaugh
    Reply

    Love baseball, grew up on the Dodger side of town in NoDak. My dad took me to the Yankee/Dodger world series in 1952. It was amazing to see the Boys of Summer. But after that the baseball gods have not smiled on me. I’m by nature a Homie and ended up in Denver. The Rockies pitching woes have proven you can’t play serious BB in the Mile High city.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Frank. I grew up in Cincinnati but loved Duke Snider!

  • Avatar
    Toni S Hibbs
    Reply

    This is a good post Fred! (They all are, really). Your family is blessed to share your travels and see other people and other cultures and realize the many ways in which we are all “the same”. What a world it would be if we could learn to live and work and play together. Blessings and hugs, my friend.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Toni. We are sitting in church for the first time in a long while!

Leave a Comment