Saturday night 19 of us (friends and family) made our way to Keene, NH for a night of fellowship, food, and collegiate summer league baseball. Oh, and yes there were fireworks at the end of the evening.
Dinner was nice. We had six kids under the age of 10 in a restaurant, together. It went fairly smooth, considering. Everyone ate their fill.
Then it was off to Alumni Field to watch my 18-year-old son Ryan playing for the Keene Swamp Bats. The Swamp Bats play in one of the premier summer collegiate leagues in the country, the New England Collegiate Baseball League. Keene is also one of the top-notch organizations, not only in this league, but in the entire country. Ryan is playing catcher and getting time as a designated hitter ( DH) when not catching. He’s on a temporary contract, but hoping to be picked up for the entire summer. His team, and the entire league, recruits and signs collegiate players from all over the United States to play summer baseball in New England. It’s good ball. It’s fun to watch, with good pitching, maximum effort, no commercial breaks, and the sounds of baseballs colliding with wooden bats, it’s a throwback, and it’s beautiful.
Saturday night it was about the family (and friends) coming together to see one of their own, Ryan Beal, playing baseball with the other collegians. Ryan ended up 0-for-3 at the plate, while hitting the ball hard a couple of times. The Swamp Bats lost the game, but we got to spend time together, outside, watching our national pastime being played by ball players living their ball playing dreams.
During the evening that could easily be mistaken for a casual night at a small-town ballpark with no particular interest in mind, a more personal story unfolded. Ryan’s brothers and sisters got to see him in his larger than life uniform along side his teammates. We all saw him being asked constantly by youngsters for a high-five, for a ball, or for an autograph. We heard him announced in a batting lineup between players from the University of Georgia and the University of Louisville. We watched him warm up hard throwing pitchers in the bullpen, receiving the ball like it was a simple game of catch in the back yard. We saw him respect the game, and hold his brand new teammates in high regard, as it should be. We saw our son, our brother, our nephew, our grandson, our cousin, our family friend, our role model, playing a child’s game that eventually passes each of us by. We saw a young man pursuing his dream, living in his moment, and doing gentlemanly battle on the symmetrical stage that was there before all of us, and that will be there long after each of us has passed. And maybe in an instance we saw ourselves in number 28 wearing purple, and we longed selfishly for a moment to ourselves.
It was a fun night together with our favorite people in the world, our families and friends. The weather was beautiful. The kids had some room to roam. The entertainment was real, experienced first hand, nothing was virtual. The show on the field was excellent. And as minutes disappeared into innings, and innings became an hour or two, somehow I think we were all better for it.