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Black Socks & Brotherly Love

A special Little League game helped me remember the joy of parenting.

As October approaches, I prepare in the prescribed way. I make sure there are plenty of chips in the house, that there is soda in the refrigerator, and that both the couch and the TV are in fine shape for that most important of all occasions, the World Series.

In our household, everything having to do with baseball is sacred. Baseball statistics, baseball games, and baseball paraphernalia all reign supreme from early spring through late fall each year. In a house full of baseball fanatics, the World Series is the traditional time to gather with family, eat snacks, drink sodas, and watch The Game.

As the leaves swirl around outside, and the Series blares inside, my mind often wanders back to another big baseball game, one that involved not only winners and losers, but one that taught me a lesson in brotherly love.

It was a Saturday, late in the spring. The air was warm, and the soft breeze held the promise of a beautiful, peaceful day. It was game day for our two little boys (blessedly, they played on the same team that year). The time to head to the ball field was drawing ever closer.

While the springtime air outside was filled with the scent of peace and calm, the mood inside our home was ripe with the faint smell of discord. Voices escalating from the boys' room rang out, "Where is my other cleat?" "I get to wear the stretchy belt today, not you!" and finally, "No way are you going to wear my black socks!" The squabbling over the socks continued for a few more moments until I firmly explained that it was time to leave.

Each boy was dressed in full baseball garb—jersey, baseball pants, caps, cleats. The disputed black socks had ended up on my younger son, but no one was happy about it.

Two crabby boys sat silently in the van for the short ride to the park. As I drove, I muttered a quick, hushed prayer, "Lord, will we ever have even one moment of brotherly love?"

I steered the van into the parking lot. My two little baseball boys tumbled out and ran separately toward the rest of their teammates.

I wandered over to the bleachers, sure that their gloom and mine were apparent to all. The two brothers sat in the dugout, one on the far left side and the other on the far right side. Both watched the game intently. Each refused to even look at the other.

The game progressed nicely until the third inning. The coach had the team members switching defensive positions each inning. My older son was happy to be assigned to play third base. His younger brother, however, was assigned to be the catcher, a position he did not want to play. After being outfitted in the massive catcher's gear, my younger son trudged out behind the plate.

The first several batters went up to the plate and both of my boys played valiantly. The next batter came up to the plate. Just as he had seen the big leaguers do, he tapped the plate with his bat and glided his hips from side to side, readying himself for the pitch.

The young catcher was growing tired and he moved his legs a bit, just off from the correct catcher's stance. The ball came flying in on its way to the plate. The batter took a big swing, missing the ball. The young catcher, too tired to pay close attention, moved the wrong way. As the ball whizzed past the plate, it flew in and hit the young catcher squarely on the thigh.

I watched my little boy as he slowly stood up to shake off the pain. He stood over the plate for a moment, and then started to squat back down into the catcher's stance. He stopped and pulled the gigantic mask off of his little face. No longer able to be brave, he let small tears roll down his cheeks.

The third baseman observed the incident. He took a step away from third base, his eyes on the catcher. Watching the younger boy's face, the third baseman left his own position and began moving toward home plate. As he was taking small but sure steps toward the catcher, the coach called out, "Kyle, third base!" The third baseman continued walking. "Kyle, get back to third base!" He kept heading for home plate. "Kyle, get to your base!"

At that moment, my little third baseman turned his face to the coach and with a determined voice exclaimed, "That's my brother!" Kyle ran the few remaining steps to home plate where his little brother stood trying not to cry. Kyle put his arm around Nick and whispered some words of comfort into his ear. Nick wiped his face, nodded his head, and, pulling the mask back on, crouched down to play as Kyle trotted back to third base.

As I sat in the warm sun, my mood lightened and my eyes misted up remembering the book of Romans where we read, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." "Thank you," I prayerfully whispered.

There have been many more baseball games since then—both wins and losses. But few have been as memorable as that game in late spring. I learned something from my young sons that day. In life, and in baseball, it's important to love your brother—even if he is wearing your black socks.

Lisa Montano will be watching the World Series with her husband and sons at their home in California.

Fall 2002, Vol. 15, No. 1, Page 36

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