Friday, May 15, 2009
Today I witnessed one of the most important days in my brother's life.
Right now, he might think it was the worst day of his life, but I stand that he has so much to be incredibly proud of.
So let me give you a little background at this ripe hour of 4 a.m.: my youngest brother has been playing baseball for about 15 years. Yep, they start 'em early at my household, and when his older brother Don began playing. Mike was the "team mascot," and wanted anything and everything to do with the sport, especially since my dad was the coach.
He played competitive baseball, took lessons and everything, and kept playing long after Don quit. My dad was his coach, and eventually developed him into a pitcher. And his teams were stinkin' good, largely in part because of him! Baseball was definitely his thang, if you get my drift.
But at the end of his sophomore year, he received a difficult blow. He suddenly suffered an elbow injury that is like the equivalent of tearing the ACL in the knee, and if you've ever heard of Tommy Johns surgery, that's what he needed. With the year-long recovery, he opted to never play baseball again since he didn't plan on playing college ball.
Not so fast! After sitting out his junior season, he did every kind of exercise, conditioning, and rehab in the book and made it for his senior season. Still, he struggled with his elbow and had to sit out the beginning of the season. When he was out there, though, the other teams didn't know what had hit them! His team fought against a tough schedule, primarily playing schools in one or two classifications higher than the small private school Mike attends (and I attended, for the record).
When playoffs rolled around, the team was 13-21. I remember joking with Mike at one point, trying to guess his team's record, and shot low. It was lower. Once they began playing teams in their own classification, however, it was a different story. They won! They took regionals, shocking everyone, and then were slated to play the number one team in the state in the first round of the state tournament.
We drove to Mustang, Okla. to support Mike and the Patriots. We didn't know what to expect with the combination of the winning streak and the fact that Sperry had won both times the team had squared off by more than ten runs. But we were pretty confident, especially when Metro secured a one-run lead and the innings were flying by, either on strikeouts or easy outs in the field.
The last out of the last inning finally arrived, and Metro had rendered Sperry runless. There was one batter on third, but there were two outs, two strikes, so all Metro needed was one more pitch -- it appeared -- and the game would be over. We cheered as the batter connected with the ball and it soared high into left field, an easy catch for the fielder -- until the ball went over the fence.
In an instant, Sperry took the lead and the game was over with a two-run, walk-off homerun by the ninth batter (typically the worst hitter in the lineup), who had previously struck out some fifteen times in a row. The Metro crowd was visibly stunned, myself included. We couldn't grasp this change of events; this kind of stuff only happens in the movies, right?
But once the shock subsided a little, I was overcome with pride for this team, who came into the playoffs 13-21 and stunned the socks off of everyone they faced, even this Sperry team. We joked that their All-state 90+ MPH pitcher had to be consoled because he wasn't used to people hitting his pitches.
And I was overcome with pride for my brother, who had rocked a 15-year baseball career and overcome all kinds of obstacles to become a great pitcher, and more importantly, a strong leader on his team. He commanded the authority of his team and boosted their morale with his confident spirit and consistent fight. He has a spark, a talent, a presence that can only be God's gift, and I think his opportunities are limitless. I see him accomplishing whatever he puts his mind to, and accomplishing anything God blesses for his future.
It's not just because he's my brother. I promise. :)