Last year, I shared with you that Lindell did not make the Little League team. While that experience shook me as a mother (we are only as happy as our saddest child), it seemed to only inspire Lindell to try harder. In fact, I don’t think Lindell realized how much he cared about baseball until he didn’t make the team.

I wrote about baseball again earlier this year, after Lindell had gone to tryouts. All through the winter, he had done push-ups in the living room and one-on-one clinics with coaches, and he went to the tryouts with absolute determination. So we were thrilled when finally he made the team — the same team his brothers played for years before. I wrote about that, too. Naturally.

So it seems fitting to tell that today we’ve wrapped up Lindell’s first year as a Little Leaguer, and although he had wanted his Roy Hobbs, break-the-stadium-lights moment, it never came. Lindell made contact with the ball twice during his many times up at bat, and both times the ball fouled toward the first-base line. After his last time at bat this season, Lindell jabbed the bat into the ground in disappointment. I watched helplessly from behind the fence at home plate.

Lindell, though not the youngest on his team, is definitely the smallest. All those nights of doing push-ups and “hanging sit-ups” with Dad (in which Dustin held Lindell upside down in the air and had him rise up to touch his elbows to his knees) didn’t make a dent in Lindell’s very small frame. He’s all legs and knobby knees, and his waist can barely keep size 8 pants on his hips without a belt.

However, with all his spunk and determination, Lindell did become quite a fielder this year. After the first few games of playing in the outfield, Lindell went up to the coach and asked for a chance to play something different. The coach agreed to give him a shot at second base during the next game, and Lindell spent that whole weekend preparing. During the game, Lindell smiled and pumped his fist in the air each time he caught a pop fly and helped make an out at first. He’s played second base ever since.

Of course, every time the ball shot to second base I held my breath behind the fence. Everything (especially Lindell) seemed to move in slow motion, and in the case of a dropping pop fly, I realized that all eyes were on my little boy with his glove in the air yelling, “I got it!”

Did he really have it?

Usually he did. And although the falling ball seemed like it would pound Lindell’s 65-pound body into the ground like driving a nail through a board, Lindell always stayed on his feet and smiled afterward.

He even got a chance to pitch. He pitched to batters twice- and three-times his size, and he always held his ground, even as I winced when the biggest hitters took their place at home plate.

But Lindell never got a base hit himself. And it seemed like he was always at bat with bases loaded and two outs already on the board. There is little else a mother hates more than seeing her little boy walk out of the dugout, his helmet on and bat in hand, when there are two outs. It’s common to see baseball moms consoling each other when this happens.

“Oh no,” we say to one another. “Not him. Don’t let him be the last out,” even as we know that someone has to be the last out. But couldn’t it be one of the bigger kids who usually gets a nice hit to the fence?

No, that’s not the way baseball works.

One time, when Lindell was at bat in the bottom of the sixth, with bases loaded and two outs, I buried my face in my hands, refusing to watch. When I heard the ump yell “out,” I figured it was Lindell. But when I looked up, a runner stealing a base had been tagged with the ball. Lindell was not the last out.

Hallelujah.

Lindell overheard me telling this story to someone the other day. He was angry and interrupted. “Why did you assume I’d strike out?” he asked.

“I just wanted to protect you from that,” I said. “So I was glad it ended before you could take another swing.”

And then Lindell said this: “But my next swing could have been my first base hit. It could have been the one that went to the outfield.”

I was stunned. Lindell saw every at-bat as another chance to get a hit, no matter how many times he hadn’t before. He wasn’t counting his failures, he was fighting for his opportunities to succeed.

Now, obviously, I can’t protect my children from anything in baseball (and not from much else in life either), but this conversation really brought that message home. All those times I’ve rushed to protect my children, maybe I was really robbing them of opportunities. Or, in Lindell’s language, maybe I was wishing away a chance for their next “big moment.”


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