Our 14-year-old son decided to play baseball this spring for his local middle school team.

Last year, he played for his team at a local Catholic school that he had attended most of his grade school days. He had created a bond with children who became very close friends. These kids played together, studied together and spent most of their free time with one another.

Fast forward one year, and we had moved our son to a local middle school. We did it reluctantly but knew it was in his best interest for success. Our oldest was graduating from high school, so we knew what it would take to succeed at the high school level.

Last year he played baseball on a team that played like friends or brothers. They all loved the game and they loved each other. It was obvious from the very first practice that they loved their coach and they wanted to play the game.

This year, our 14-year-old was on a very different team with much different players. They did not seem to love the game, let alone love each other. It was painful watching them play the game. They couldn’t field the ball, couldn’t hit the ball and certainly didn’t act as if they liked one another. What had happened?

After watching the first couple of games (in horror), I decided I would make “the ask” to the coach. After the game I went up to the coach and offered to help with the team. I told him I’d probably live to regret the offer, but I made the offer anyway. He smiled and said he would love the help.

For the next few weeks I showed up at practice and did my best at helping out. This time was an education for me, watching and listening to the coach. Weekly, he talked about “getting dirty” and “loving the game.” I was impressed with his attitude, even though most of the players acted like they just didn’t care.

The very last game of the season was against the Catholic school team my son had left the previous year.

When their team arrived, I welcomed them and offered bubble gum to each of the players. As I greeted all the familiar faces of the team and the coaches, it felt like a family reunion.

As the final game of the season began, I held my breath and hoped for the best. Their team had not lost a game this season and ours had won only one.

Our team fought a gallant battle and looked pretty good for the first few innings. Their team fought back and moved ahead by three or four runs.

When the game was over (I don’t even remember the score), I felt pleased with the results. Everyone enjoyed playing the game, and I still believe that’s what was important.

The boys were all happy, yet in the end, their team prevailed and another season of baseball ended.