For lack of a better marker for the farthest Whiffle Ball hit during the soft-toss batting practice competition the other night, the red helmet was moved progressively back as the 11-and-12-year-olds strode to the plate, swung for the fences, and raised arms overhead, each successively claiming the distance record.
Back, back, back the red helmet was moved, farther and farther from home plate.
That’s when one of the youngest players, told he was facing his 10th and last pitch of a Whiffle Ball, had his final opportunity to prove why he still belonged on this team.
He’s always been on this team. It’s his fifth year and he’s only 10. He’s always played up. That’s because “his eyes get as big as saucers” as he recounts to his mom (as she in turn tells us coaches later) of what happened during a game, and even during practice.
He’s got heart. He competes. An apt description of all these young men with their leave-it-all-on-the-field spirit.
But there are others, many others in our community, who will never take the field.
There just isn’t enough money.
And there’s not enough of something else that’s even more important.
Given the tragic disruption of families, school staffs, whole communities and the nation as together we continue the discussion of safety and action steps to that end following yet another deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, our neighborhood board met the other night to consider our own options of what to do to most effectively use our limited time and resources to best impact our community.
We can’t, after all, do it all. But we must do something. And not just do something good, nor even do something better than maybe we’ve done it before, but rather do what is best of all.
Something that makes our eyes as big as saucers. Something that requires passion. Something that must be done or, if not, we’ll die trying, or come close, given we’ll have given it all we’ve got, leaving everything on the field.
“The desperate cry of America’s boys” headlined the opinion piece by Suzanne Venker for Fox News this past February 18.
“Deeper even than the gun problem is this: boys are broken,” wrote Venker.
“Broken homes, or homes without a physically and emotionally present mother and father, are the cause of most of society’s ills.
“‘Unstable homes produce unstable children,’ writes Peter Hasson at The Federalist.
“America’s boys are in serious trouble. As Warren Farrell’s new book, The Boy Crisis, explains, boys are experiencing a crisis of education, a crisis of mental health (as in the case of Nikolas Cruz), a crisis of purpose. And at the root of it all is fatherlessness.
“Indeed, there is a direct correlation between boys who grow up with absent fathers and boys who drop out of school, who drink, who do drugs, who become delinquent and who wind up in prison.
“And who kill their classmates.”
Role models, dads preferably, but someone, an involved someone, a present someone, must come alongside to set and enforce boundaries; to steer otherwise rudderless youth; to occasionally cajole and chastise; but more often to cheerlead and to coach.
To help them swing for the fences. To give them a story to tell.
With three of his older teammates having already tied for the Whiffle Ball Distance Record, he stood there, bat cocked, body coiled, eyes as big as saucers, as the ball sailed toward him.
He swung. And connected. And the ball rocketed high, then arched, and settled, and bounced, and bounced again, then rolled, and rolled . . . and rolled.
And way back, beneath the trees, the fir cones, and the occasional fallen branch, sat the red helmet.
And as the Whiffle Ball finally lost steam, it settled, snugly nestled under the protective cover of the red helmet itself.
You should have seen his eyes.
They were as big as saucers.