Updated: Aug 30, 2019
(Photo credit to Karen McDermott)
When Nils was a little guy he spent hours every summer at the ball field, watching his brothers play. He’d don a helmet, way too big, the cutest little bobble-head you’ve ever seen. Then he’d take his position in front of the bleachers, parallel to the first-base line. He’d watch every play, and reenact it. A swing of the bat… a run to the bag… a slide if you’re lucky… and HE’S SAFE!! Over and over, all evening long.
One day during this season of life, I took boys to the public library to stock up on summer reading. Not at all interested in books for babies, Nils had something specific in mind. A baseball book on a particular topic – he described it in detail to the librarian on duty. She was clearly impressed. You know a LOT about baseball for a boy so small! Without missing a beat Nils gave explanation. “I learned it playing Backyard Baseball on my computer.”
You don’t say!
Alas. Whether learned in real life or via computer, our third-born son was groomed for the game. He started playing shortstop for Coach Dave Sorenson’s little league team around the age of eight. Nils by then could reenact all the catches he’d been watching daily on SportsCenter.com. Every play the kid made looked like an ESPN highlight, whether it needed to or not.
Fast-forward a half-dozen years.
By now big brother Grant has been an All-State catcher, and is playing college ball. Luke’s close to 6’4” and honing his skills as pitcher. And Nils is small. As in scrawny. (At a graduation party, one of Nils’ classmates had a display of team photos from elementary school. I nearly gasped when I saw my son in his basketball uni. Goodness, young man. Did your mama feed you?) So for all his spectacular fielding and wily base-stealing, Nils starts to wonder if he’s got what it takes to keep up. He tries track & field for a season in the seventh grade.
And who could blame him? It’s just the boy’s luck, already little brother, and wouldn’t you know all his buddies at school are man-child marvels. No class before and probably since has seen such a crew of athletes – and baseball players all. So while Nils second-guesses himself and considers a career as a 400 runner, his parents are imagining a future dream-team, no doubt including their favorite scrappy shortstop.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever felt like this kid I’m describing? A little among all the BIGS?
Lately especially. Aware of my smallness. My limitations. (If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know what I mean.) But then just lately something else has been happening. Maybe inspired by baseball games. It’s like the more I’m faced by this sea of limits – the more conscious I am of potential STRENGTHS. And this matters.
Resuming the story. The first time we took Nils on a college visit we met with a baseball coach. (Actually we found out later he wasn’t really a coach, but a B-team conditioning guy.) So this 20-something sort-of-coach takes one look at Nils and proceeds to tell him about all the 200-pound-plus homerun hitters the school’s been recruiting, and how they’re looking for players who can bench a gazillion pounds. We walk away feeling appropriately rejected. But then Nils does something I’m not expecting. He starts to laugh out loud. That guy was crazy. You can’t be a team with just ONE kind of guy. Good luck winning games with a mindset like that.
Now there’s the spirit! (And if by chance the guy from the college is reading statistics from this recent season on a particular shortstop from Minnesota, he might understand what he’s probably missing.)
His senior season. A state leader in hits and runs and bases stolen. Turning double plays and diving for balls. The nastiest bunter you’ve ever witnessed, flying to first in record time. State Championship game, and he makes the ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM.
Which proves what I'm saying.
You don’t need to be BIG to kill it in baseball. Here’s to my son. The king of SMALL ball.
But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 1 Corinthians 7:7