What a beautiful Sunday it was. Spent the morning putting up Christmas lights, watched some football, then headed out to the local baseball field on the urging of my almost ten year-old son. As we warmed up our arms, we noticed the only other person at the park was observing us intently.
This other person was a kid of about twelve who had a soccer ball at his feet. He soon came a little closer, sat down on his soccer ball and looked closer at our warmup routine. When we progressed to batting practice, our audience of one became a participant of sorts, shagging balls and rolling them toward my bucket. When the bucket was empty, I approached the boy and asked if he'd like to join in. "Not much English...Russian," he said. "That's OK, I said, you don't need English for baseball." He demurred, but remained interested, still shagging balls.
When the Fungo bat came out, he got more interested. We introduced ourselves and I tossed him a glove. My son showed him the "alligator hands" I had taught him years earlier. After a few shots beneath the leather, our new infielder starting scooping up the grounders and tossing them back in. My son and I gave him a steady diet of encouragement, and he beamed with pride each time he closed the glove around the ball.
After the successful infield session, we got him to try a little BP. I uncrossed his hands, and my son showed him how to "squash the bug" under his back foot. I retreated behind the chain link screen and began throwing. Turns out our new friend was a slugger in waiting. He blasted a number of balls into the outfield of this regulation park after just a few tries.
When the sun began to set, we packed it in for the day. As we put the last of the balls in the bucket, we found out that this kid had been in the county just a month. "You did a great job, buddy!" I told him. "You are good teacher," he replied.
Zipping up the last of our gear in the bag, I left one glove and two balls outside. I handed our new friend the glove with the balls inside. "Here---this is for you. Welcome to America. You're good at baseball, and you should keep playing." "No, no, no" he said. But I insisted and he finally agreed, thanking me profusely. As he walked away, he looked down at the glove like it was magical. Who knows, maybe it will be.