Archive for the 'Sports' Category

Promise kept

As best I can figure, Scott started playing church softball in about 2001, which would have made last year about his 15th year. That’s 15 years of cleats and gloves, of caps and jerseys, of shortstop and left field and 3rd base, of rosters and scorecards. 15 years of Scott taking his stance in the batter’s box, holding up his right hand to the ump, taking a couple practice swings, doing his classic butt wiggle, and then lifting both arms as if the pitch is too far inside, while Hank calls out, “Steeeee-rike. . . two!” 15 years of Scott losing his cap as he races to 2nd and 15 years of him sliding into 3rd. 15 years of strollers and bike racks and kids of various ages. Kids playing in the soft, powdery dirt between my feet and the fence, romping on the playground, riding bikes (on pavement!), wading in the creek, making mud around the drippy water fountain, running or roller-blading to retrieve foul balls, standing behind the outfield fence to cheer Dad on, and stomping on the bleachers, chanting, “We’re the Promise Keepers! We’re gonna’ win this GAME!”

15 years of keeping my bag chair in the van continually from April through July (and sometimes through October for fall ball), 15 years of hauling it on my shoulder to the field, 15 years of hollering myself hoarse cheering on each of our guys by name. 15 years of my and the kids’ “weekend” starting at 5:00 PM on Thursday, because it was game night, and Friday was our off day, complete with sleeping in and eating junk food. We didn’t care if the game was at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30, or 9:30, or even if there was a double-header. We were just there for the duration, and we loved it.

Our kids grew up spending Thursday nights at Stockstill. It was an anchor in our lives.

For the past couple years, Andrew’s been playing recreational volleyball at First Baptist on Thursday nights, and when it’s not softball season, Scott has joined him. They both like it a lot. Even Josiah has gone to volleyball several times while he’s been here the past few months. I like that all three of my menfolk can do something active together that they all enjoy.

Scott started the Promise Keepers softball team in 2002 when we were attending a church (Tri-Lakes Cathedral) that didn’t have its own team. Only a handful of guys from the church wanted to play, so Scott recruited other folks (not all Christians) and formed his own team. Some of the guys were from Country Mart. Some were friends of friends of friends. For about ten years, although new guys joined and others quit or moved away, a small core group of players stayed with the team. And in most years, the PK’s were quite good. At least a couple times, they won the championship, and for a number of years, Scott advocated for Parks and Rec to divide the church league into upper and lower divisions (Promise Keepers always in the upper!) to make it more fun for his team. Besides playing a sport that he loves, his on-going goal was to develop relationships with unchurched men that he could use to influence them toward the Lord.

Four years ago, I started singing in a community choir. During the school year, we rehearse on Thursday nights from 7:00-9:00, and I felt guilty about missing some of Scott’s games. Since Promise Keepers is not a church team, there’s not a big crowd of church folks who come to watch and cheer for their guys, like they do for Church Army or The Sanctuary or Forsyth First Baptist; there are usually only three or four PK wives or girlfriends there. Until I joined the choir, I was one of the few wives who was ALWAYS at Scott’s games, watching him, cheering him, and being proud of him while he was doing something he loves to do.

Over the past five or so years, the team’s been almost completely re-formed. Now it’s mostly a lot of younger guys whose names I don’t know, and Scott’s probably old enough to be their dad. Last year, I think he was one of the two oldest guys on the team. And he’s no longer the manager; that mantle got passed a couple years ago to a guy who’s probably about 30 and has a toddler. A toddler who probably plays in the soft, powdery dirt between her mom’s feet and the fence.

They had their first practice of 2016 last Thursday night. A few days later, Scott said, “I’m not going to play softball this year. With everything else going on,” – and I could mention his job change, mission trips, vacation rental business, and Jessica’s upcoming  WEDDING(!!!) for starts – “I think I’ll enjoy volleyball more.”

And I do get that.

But I sit here typing and crying, grieving, not because this is a bad change – it’s not; it’s actually a good change – but just because it IS a change and a big one, after so many years. Although I think I’m actually relieved. In this season of my life, I really wasn’t looking forward to hauling my chair down there every Thursday night to sweat and fight the mosquitoes and watch people I don’t know play on a team that used to be so important to me, but now is not. Besides that, sitting there alone is just not so very fun. It’s much, much MUCH more exciting when one or both of the girls are there with me, but with one girl living in Hong Kong, and one living in Virginia, their attendance at a Thursday night game just isn’t very practical.

So I am writing today to be happy and thankful for those 15 years, to document some stuff that our family may want to remember down the road, and to look forward to the next 15 years.

As Katie recently said in a message to me, with which she included a photo of a St. Louis Cardinal batter at the plate, “PSA: Baseball is back!!!”

Let them play ball!

Advertisements

New (or at least additional) job description

Andrew will be embarking on a grand adventure when he begins school as a sophomore at Trinity Christian Academy next month.  I think his main goal right now is to make friends, fit in, and be accepted by his new set of peers, and one thing that I believe is facilitating that process is his participation on the TCA basketball team.

He’s never played on an organized basketball team before, although he did have some basic instruction and practice when he was attending our local homeschool co-op, Veritas Enrichment.  He’s in pretty good physical shape and he likes basketball, but he’s been a bit short on experience.  This summer is giving him lots of basketball opportunities.

In addition to shooting at our (in his words rather dilapidated) goal out back – and his coach wants him to take 500 shots a day! – for several weeks, they have had 1.5 hour practices three afternoons a week.  Initially these were at the school gym in Hollister, but later at the Branson RecPlex.  Andrew’s been to most of those.

The team, TCA Eagles, has also participated in a “shoot-out” competition on several Thursday mornings in June and July, only one of which Andrew’s been able to attend so far, but it looks good for his playing some next week (July 16).  Now, I am not a very well-informed mom when it comes to athletics, so I had to learn what a shoot-out is.  It’s a three-day deal where teams from all over the area come together and play a dizzying schedule of short games (two 15-minute halves). The TCA team typically plays only two games on Thursdays. but there are games going on all day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  The one I attended a few weeks ago was in the Branson (Hilton) convention center, which has three full courts side-by-side in one huge, extremely well-air conditioned (read: freeze your ever-lovin’ buns off!) room. There are one, two, or three games going at a time, and for a nominal fee, one can sit court-side and shiver and watch.  Most teams had ten or so players there, so they would play five guys for a while and then switch off; it looked like each team usually played its varsity (bigger, more experienced) guys against each other and then its junior varsity (smaller, less experienced) guys against each other.  We lost both games I watched, but Andrew did get to play for several minutes, and though he didn’t shoot and therefore didn’t score, he focused on rebounding and seemed to learn a lot.  That means he was teachable, and for a Roberts, that can be a significant achievement.  I was really proud of him for “getting in amongst it.”

This week, one of the dads took his vacation time to host a two-hour basketball clinic at 8:00 AM each morning at the school gym.  Unlike the Branson convention center, that single-court sized air space is not air conditioned at all, so in the middle of the summer, early mornings are really the only times to enter it and live.  Andrew has especially liked the basketball clinic and stated that he wishes it would keep going, because “It’s a fun way to start my day.”  They’ve mainly drilled a lot on fundamentals – ball handling, dribbling, etc. – but the past couple days they have also scrimmaged, five-on-five or three-on-three, and he grinned when he told me  he’s made some shots.  He said that today the other guys also found out he was a gymnast, so he turned a round-off, double back handspring, back tuck that really wowed them.  I asked if he told them he plays the piano, too, and he said, “No, not yet.  I want to impress them gradually.”

That’s probably smart.

I never was a soccer mom, but maybe now I am working my way toward becoming a basketball mom.  = )

With apologies to Ernest Thayer

The Promise Keepers were playing in the church league tournament on Thursday night, June 25.  It was a play-till-you-lose deal (no time limit, seven innings or run-rule), and although we scored fewer runs than First Baptist Branson in the 6:30 game, we ended up winning it because our erstwhile opponents had done that hush-hush, technically forbidden thing of playing some very accomplished guys who hadn’t met the minimum participation requirements with their team during the regular season.

[Note: We witnessed this same situation a few years ago with a team from another area church that shall remain nameless.]

Anyway, First Baptist was disqualified, so at 7:30 we went on to play CORE (a.k.a. Church Army), whom we disposed of handily via run-rule.

Our guys then got to rest at 8:30 and watch a close game in which The Sanctuary lost to Living Word Church from Branson West.  Living Word’s players were generally speaking – and in so saying I mean no disparagement of our players; especially of our eldest player! – a bit younger and a bit more fit than ours, and I thought we might have some trouble.  It was late, and after two games our guys were tired, and, well. . .

Well. . . the championship game commenced shortly after 9:30, and we were batting last.  We held our own initially, but by the 5th inning, we were hitting not so well, we were fielding their solid hits even more poorly, and the score was tied, ten all.  The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the PK nine (Trey was sitting out that game and just “coaching”) that night.  Well, actually, let me just abandon the play-by-play prose and give it to you straight.  And since WordPress suddenly flatly refuses to allow me to have spaces between stanzas, I have added some ~~~~~ for legibility.

MY HERO AT THE BAT (by W2)

~~~~~

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the PK Nine that night.

The score stood ten to ten with not much power left in sight.

Two outs had just transpired in the bottom of the 5th,

When to the batter’s box My Hero strode and shook his hips.

~~~~~

We know such shake with elbows raised portends a strike, and so

We weren’t surprised when Bob the ump growled “Strike Two,” (though ‘t looked low).

Again, Scott took some practice swings; he often does the same,

But he’s been known to miss a pitch released while he takes aim.

~~~~~

We watched with bated breath and nervous sweat the pitch come down,

Knowing if we didn’t score, the sixth would make us frown.

Scott swung, and made good contact with that neon yellow sphere!

Would it be caught?  Oh, who could tell?  Right center; how we peered.

~~~~~

It did look deep, but we weren’t sure – the tremors, the suspense.

On flew that ball, o’er all their heads, then rolled on toward the fence!

Our runners ran from every base and tore the diamond round,

With pumping arms and grunting lungs; fans made a screaming sound.

~~~~~

We urged them on with all we had, those desp’rate racing four.

We near grew hoarse as they raced on; we few, but what a roar!

We saw the fielder finally scoop the ball and hurl it in.

Oh, RUN PK-ers!  Don’t quit now!  We stand a chance to win!

~~~~~

One by one the three came home to whoops and cheers galore.

Emotions high, we wondered: would Scott hold or try to score?

In rounding third, he looked to see and in an inkling chose

To keep on tearing toward that plate despite his gathering foes.

~~~~~

The catcher planted both his feet; Scott slackened not his pace.

He sped toward home with all he had.  He would not be disgraced.

The throw was off but only just; the catcher stretched. . .  and failed

To keep his foot upon the plate; where Scott’s foot did prevail!

~~~~~

‘Twas one for all the record books, an in-the-park grand slam!

The crowd went wild, we clapped, high-fived, and hugged, and danced a jam!

Who would have thought?  Who could have known? Such heart within these guys,

To press so hard and give so much to win that noble prize.

~~~~~

Two innings more, and though the scoreboard see-sawed back and forth,

Our Promise Keepers held their ground; they hit for all they’re worth.

The final score I can’t recall, sixteen to twelve perhaps?

In any case, it was enough for our victorious chaps.

~~~~~

I think the winning factor was a phrase Scott had us chant

With rising gusto when it seemed our guys were weak and faint.

Scott rallies folks where ‘ere he goes.  Deep from his heart still pours

The cry that “Everybody hits, and everybody scores!”

Two headed monster

My first pastor was fond of saying that anything with two heads is a freak.  This is generally true, except perhaps in softball.  Tonight the Promise Keepers played a double-header with Living Word Church from Branson West.  We played at Stockstill on the far field at 8:30 and on the near field at 9:30.

Hank wasn’t always right, but he was far better than either of the umps we had tonight!  (BTW, it looks like none of the umps from previous years are refereeing this year, and that is a sad thing.)  The first game, we had a guy who not only liked his strikes very high, but also couldn’t tell when a runner was out.  It got pretty intense, guys on both sides were pretty steamed, and we lost that one.

The second game started out better.  We got off to a good lead, and the ump was, if not great, at least better than the first guy.  However, there were a number of questionable calls, which seemed to favor the opposing team.  Scott’s not coaching this year, and Matt, who is, and who is generally fairly level-headed, had had a lengthy conversation with the first game ump right after that game.  In the second game, there was a controversy, (I think it was a play involving their runner plowing into Scott at 3rd and whether or not Scott did or didn’t get out of the way), and Matt got in the ump’s face, to the point that I feared he might get thrown out of the game.  Scott had to get in between them and walk Matt away to try to calm him down.  This while Trey kept saying, “Let’s play ball, guys!  Let’s not argue.  Let’s have fun!”  = )

We were up nine to two going into the last inning, but they batted last and managed to tie it.  Ugh.  With tempers high all around, we upped it to twelve to nine, and by the skin of our teeth we held them to eleven runs and finally made our third out.  Whew!  So we split the double-header, and hopefully there were no freaks.

 

 

It’s really a racket

When Katie and I went over to PHC to see Josiah, we spent a few minutes playing ping pong and a few more minutes analyzing the physics of the air hockey table, but then we went downstairs to play  something I had never played in my entire life:  racquetball!

We didn’t keep score.  We just hit the ball around, but it was really fun.  The idea that you can hit the ball off any of five different surfaces AND the knowledge that you never have to chase a lost ball are both huge positives.

I think I could actually learn to play the game if I never had to serve.  The problem with serving is that I tend to want to stand there and glory in the fact that I actually executed a legal serve, but instead, what I must do (but always forget to do) is to move to a different part of the court immediately after serving.  Failure to make this move has two results, neither of them desirable:  1) I miss the ball when it comes zinging back on the far side of the court, or 2) I get slammed by the ball as it comes zinging back toward my head.

I also like the sound the ball makes as it hits the various surfaces with various amounts of force.  Very satisfying, those noises.  And finally, being able to run around and sweat in air-conditioned comfort is a wonderful thing.

Racquetball, you are OK by me.

 

Jeopardy question: What is 94?

Answer:  The ambient temperature at the end of Scott’s PK ball game.  (at 9:40 PM)

And even though they lost to Church Army (13 to 5, had nine regular players plus Trey, but were missing the two Steves who are both solid players), watching Trey hit the ball, get on base, work his way around the bases, barely make it back to 3rd after running on a fly ball(!!!), and eventually sliding safely into home brought tears to my eyes – especially when the  Church Army fans all cheered for him.

Some things are more important than winning.

The former rain and the latter rain

We think this is the 14th year that Scott has played softball on Thursday nights.  Going to his games and cheering on the Promise Keepers is a Thursday night family tradition.  Now for the first time in 14 years, I am sad to say that I have not been able to be a regular fan at his games, because the Branson Chamber Singers (BCS) are rehearsing on Thursday nights through June 20th, and the softball season runs April 11 – June 13.

Not to worry; at least Andrew could still go to the games.  This is, until a couple of his teen friends from the homeschool choir joined BCS and urged him to do the same. . . which he did.  That’s really neat to me.  We’re working on Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, an almost 30-page, beautiful work, in Latin.  I’m thrilled that Andrew gets to work with an outstanding director and a bunch of great adults who are enjoying singing serious music.  That’s a rare and valuable opportunity for a 13 year-old!

But it means no one can fully attend any of his games.  Scott’s games are at 6:30, 7:30, or 8:30, lasting about an hour.  Choir rehearsal is 7:00 – 9:00.  The only way we can see him play is to try catch the first few minutes of a 6:30 game, or the last few of an 8:30 game.  = (

However, if weather prevents a game from being played, that game gets added on to the end of the season.  So far, it has rained hard enough and long enough on FOUR of the past six Thursdays to cause those games to be canceled.  This means that those games will be added on to the season, beginning June 20, which means there will be softball games during July. . . when ALL THE KIDS ARE HOME!!!

Scott is bummed about the rain keeping them from playing, but I choose to view it as God’s mercy for the most loyal PK fans.   = )