The average Major League fastball is thrown at 90 miles per hour. Nine-year-old Little Leaguers throw considerably slower than that, but that didn’t stop my breath from suddenly leaving my body when my son was struck in the helmet by an errant pitch during last Sunday night’s game.
It’s strange, scenes like these, how they seem to unfold in slow motion.
The gasp of the crowd.
His little body dropping to a crouch at home plate.
Three coaches—men who care so much—rushing to his side.
I grip the metal chain-link fence, the only thing that stands between him and me.
Otherwise, I don’t move. I’m frozen.
He removes his helmet, stands and his little face twists with pain.
Eyes squeeze tears down his cheeks.
I know this cry.
This isn’t his ‘I’m embarrassed’ cry or his ‘I’m pissed off’ cry. This is his ‘I’m hurt’ cry.
The sight of it returns the breath to my body.
He’s hurt, but he’s OK.
I let out a whooshing breath and stand, unable to sit a moment longer, adrenaline now rushing through my body.
He walks it off, as they say, and takes his base.
“I didn’t like that,” I say to my husband, the only words I can come up with.
A nearby dad, someone who’s played a lot of baseball and is a good friend, offers, “That won’t be the last time, Wendy.”
It’s not meant to be mean or cautionary or to diminish the moment. I know that. It’s said as a statement of fact. And that fact is this: If you put yourself in the path of a ball, sooner or later, you’re going to get hit.
I’ve been thinking about that comment a lot these past few days. Because here’s the thing, it’s so true. That won’t be the last time one of my kids goes and does something or experiences something that absolutely takes my breath away, leaves me paralyzed with fear or heartache, or even joy.
Being a parent is a lot like batting. Every day, you step up to the plate, stand there in the box and put yourself in the path of the ball. Sometimes, you get lucky and hit it out of the park. More often than not, though, you swing and you miss, fall back on your heels and wonder how all that momentum and exertion came to nothing at all. Some days you get hit with the ball, drop to your knees and wait for help to rush in. But every day, you step back up and hope that your swing at these years is enough.
But, godamit, take me out to the ballgame. Any darn day.