A Gentleman's Game

We spent our July 4th going back in time – back to the 1830’s. We enjoyed a good old-fashioned day of line dancing, oxen cart rides, lying in the warm, summer grass listening to music and finally, a late-afternoon game of baseball, played by early 19th century rules. Unlike the counter-clockwise ordery flow of 1st, 2nd and 3rd base, one could opt to run clockwise, 3rd base becoming 1st. The other lovely aspect of the game – there is no such thing as striking out. There are no “balls” adding up to the cry of “OUT”! No strikezone! No foul line! A simple ding, sending the ball mere inches, is as good as knocking the ball over the tree tops, both equal reason for the team to cheer, “run! run! run!”.

While most seemed to relish Any Hit is A Great Hit, one young man struggled with the concept.

He watched from his place in the batters line-up, as a very determined little girl unproductively swung at the gentle pitches. One swing became five. Five turned into ten. His crossed-arms and aggitated shifting of weight from one foot to another, intensified with each miss. His limit of tolerance shattered at a dozen misses at which point he blurted out 21st Century words of “encouragement”. Her shoulders, held high with stiff determination, sagged. She released her white-knuckled death-grip on the bat, letting it drop to the ground.

Adjusting his straw hat, the pitcher raised his hand signalling everyone’s attention. “Please take a little rest”, he said.

As the batter line-up dispersed he said, “Just a minute, son,” to the young man whose voice will probably echo inside the little girl’s head for quite a few years to come, adding in no way to a positive self image.

“What”, the boy challenged in a sneering tone.

Bending down, the pitcher, in a low well-modulated gentle, yet firm voice said, “This, young man, is a gentleman’s game. It is important for you to conduct yourself as a gentleman, at all times. When it is your turn to hit, I expect you will provide us with a very manly swing. But in all your conduct, I expect to see the behavior of a gentleman.”

I’d like to be able to say this was the one and only rebuke the boy received for the remainder of the game. The subtleties of all that’s involved in letting oneself be immersed in time-traveling are far more complex than toning oneself down.

Had we been playing a real 21st Century game, I’ve little doubt a parent’s outraged voice, umbrage fueling outrage that anyone would dare correct their child, may have well interrupted the moment of solid moral teaching. And that’s to our shame.

My hope is the boy’s harsh words dissipate from the little girl’s memory. I pray the pitcher’s words are woven into the fabric of the little boy’s heart.

There can never be enough gentlemen in this harsh world – no matter the century.

( Pr 10:17, 12:1, 13:18, 15:5, 15:10, 16:22, 22:15, 23:13; Jer 2:30, 5:3, 7:28; Hab 1:12; Zep 3:2; 2Ti 3:16)

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