It was the bottom of the last inning of the third game of the day that Ethan's baseball team played on Saturday. It was about 9 o'clock in the evening, the tail end of a long day at the ballpark at the Virginia Sports Complex in Ruther Glen, Va., some 75 miles away from Gloucester. Somehow Ethan's team, the Gloucester Devils (Don't ask about the nickname; it's not my favorite.), had managed to surrender a 5-2 lead in the top of the inning. With one out, his team down by a run, Ethan came to the plate. Thinking ahead, to maybe when Ezra is involved in some sort of athletic competition and I'm there watching nervously as all get out, I leaned over to the couple next to me and said, "I don't know if I can do this for another 15 years."
I still get flutters in my gut, my pulse quickens and I have to stand up. Then I sit down before standing up again. I usually holler out, "Let's go Ethan!" or something along those lines but don't say a whole lot. It doesn't take an MRI specialist to see I'm a wreck inside. It's kind of ridiculous really. But I reckon, as other parents can surely attest, I'm not alone feeling the way I do watching my kid play ball. Ethan got two strikes before whacking a ball over the first baseman's head into right field for a single. To say I was happy for him is a little like saying I kind of like kids. He did his job and that's pleasing. He's struggled plenty this summer, but he never got down on himself. He knows he can hit, just like I know he's a hitter. A couple of times during the day after he struck out or got out some other way I'd go down and talk to him through the cyclone fence in the dugout. He could tell me what didn't go right and why and we'd go over how to handle the situation next time. I'd tell him he can hit these guys and mostly he did; he went 4-for-9 with a triple, three singles, three runs scored and 4 RBI.
The next two guys behind Ethan walked and he ended up at third with one out, the bases loaded, his team still down by a run. When the third baseman saw Jacob Houston coming to the plate as the next batter, he blurted out, "Oh no." Well, not exactly those words, but you get the idea. Jacob "Freight Train" Houston pretty much had the run of the place all day, spraying balls all over the field. By a quirk of the schedule, the Gloucester team played all of its games on Field #3. Jacob spent so much time on the base paths at that field there was talk of naming them "Jacob Houston Way." With the infield playing in, the pitcher threw two straight balls and Jacob turned and looked at the dugout and smiled. It wasn't a fair fight. Jacob laced the next pitch between shortstop and the third baseman and Ethan trotted home with the run that tied the game. Right behind him was the guy on second, who scored easily when the ball squirted out of the charging left fielder's glove and headed toward the fence. Game over, Gloucester wins 7-6. Let's just say it was a nice 75-mile ride home.