The other day I was driving by the city park and was surprised to see a lot of rubble and trees chopped down laying in piles. The place where I had spent so much time playing softball has become a construction nightmare. A new state of the art outdoor recreation center is in the works. I guess grass and dirt are no longer ‘in’. They can rip the place apart, but the memories and events that took place there long ago are not forgotten.
When I turned ten, a friend of mine convinced me to try out for a team. On the way to my first pratice my dad gave me these words of wisdom,
“Don’t let them put you behind the plate. It’s dangerous there. The catcher always gets hurt.”
I hadn’t stepped one toe on the field and he was already talking about injury.
We spent the first part of the practice trying to stop ground balls and catch pop flys. When it came time for us to take up field positions the coach told me to go behind home plate.
“Let’s see how you do as our catcher.” I gulped down my terror.
I did as I was told and crouched down behind the white plate. I glanced upward at the aluminum bat inches from my skull. I jumped every time someone got a hit thinking that my head was going to be mistaken for the ball. I must have made a good impression, however, because that became my assigned spot.
When I got into the car, my dad asked,
“Where did you end up playing?”
“They put me in as catcher.” I am sure he imagined ambulances and crutches, but he kept his thoughts to himself. We drove home in silence until he pulled into the garage.
“We better buy you a good mask.”
That first summer was difficult. My opponents barreled full force into me trying to knock me off my feet so I couldn’t tag them at home plate. One moment in particular was extremely painful as a girl twice my size in weight ran at me and purposely buried her head into my left shoulder. She was safe, and I was a ball of dust struggling to get off my back. Her team and coach gave her slaps of congratulations as I got up with tears in my eyes trying not to show the agony. My catcher’s mask was not only good for protecting my face from a wild pitch, but it also served as a good cover when I was hurting. I was determined to just suck it up and play on. But, I couldn’t fool my dad. Our eyes just happened to meet as he looked down from the stands. He called out to the coach who took a time out.
When the coach asked if I was okay, my tears overflowed, and I was replaced for the rest of the tournament. I found it rather difficult to sit on a bench with an ice pack and watch when I wanted to play. And, my replacement was horrible. We lost the game due to so many runs at home being missed.
By the end of that first season, I was learning how to plant my feet more firmly into the ground by the plate so no one could knock me off balance. Usually, the first runner at home would test me to see just how strong I was. It was a widely expressed fact that the catcher of a team was usually the weakest player. In short order, I proved this to be a fallacy. Many times, a runner would come at me fully expecting to take me down but would find herself lying flat on her back being tagged out.
After a rough game where I had to fight to keep myself from being bowled over, my mom said,
“They think they can knock you over only to find out it’s like hitting a brick wall. You have taught yourself how to be immovable.”
During the seven summers I played catcher, I had to learn to have confidence in my position. It didn’t come naturally, and I had to be knocked down a few times to learn how to stand up strong.
I am finding as I go through life post divorce, and I am approaching a birthday that is looming ever closer to 50, that my times of being pushed over have only taught me how to stand my ground. I have had situations come at me that seemed unsolvable, and in those moments where it seemed I was at the mercy of the events, I found I had more power than what I imagined. I have had to mentally ‘plant’ my thoughts into the positive and not budge no matter what. Even if this has meant repeating a certain phrase in my mind over and over such as “Nothing is impossible with God” when I have wanted to start to worry. The key to not being taken down begins in the mind and an attitude that refuses to accept anything but a good outcome.
And where would I be without the peace of God? That would be like trying to catch a ball without a glove. (You can do it, but boy, does it sting.) The Creator is the one who supplies the inward strength so you can laugh when you want to cry and you can sleep when you should be awake with insomnia. Can I do this flawlessly? Certainly not. To all of this I am still catching on.