Most people who know me even a little would doubt that I know or care much about baseball. As a child I needed glasses long before anyone knew I did, so no matter how hard I swung a bat or stretched for a ball, it was always just beyond my reach because I could not judge its distance. Because we were poor, when I finally got the glasses I needed, I wasn’t allowed to wear them playing. My dad had also been raised poor, so he wasn’t the sort of guy who would teach a son to do something he had not been able to do either. His severe heart disease also contributed to his lack of sports enthusiasm, I guess.
Beyond that early start, however, there was also the fact of my being gay and called a sissy as a child. The former was true, but the latter was not. I was actually kind of a fearless kid in many ways. I remember the first time I had an actual PE class in the friary. The teacher was shocked that I climbed the rope to the ceiling. I didn’t do it fast or well, but I did it along with parallel bars and pole vaulting and low hurdles.
Today I am in complete admiration of my long standing friend and confidante, Jason, who just goes for it with sports neither of us did or did well as children. Staring down things that defeat us as children and deciding to win is – well, amazing!
Still, I find spectator sports truly and totally boring. The thought of watching a game feels like watching ice melt to me.
It is against this backdrop that I confess I am apparently really into hardball. However, it isn’t the type where people don uniforms, warm up their pitching arms, chew tobacco, or slap the dust off their seats after a slide into a base. No, I am part of a few teams where people are facing tough stuff against big odds. More often than not our playing field is around a table, but we have played on the floor. We plan our plays, practice our pitches, and hurl ourselves forward when the outcome is uncertain.
Though we don’t score points that show up on a scoreboard, we know when we are winning. Our goals are to help young people have big lives, build a better system to think about adolescent sexual health, advance community in higher education, support leadership that will change the world, achieve equity among the disenfranchised, connect workers to jobs, and face the earliest defeats of our lives to do so.
In each of these teams the players know they are a part of something bigger and they act like it. They are not apart from community. They are community. Now, that’s hardball.