Ahhhhh...Springtime....flowers, green, cool weather, sunny days, and red dirt. Red dirt? That's what I said, R-e-d D-i-r-t. At our house, it's everywhere: the car, the garage, the back porch, under the bar stools, in bathrooms, on the laundry room floor, in my washer, in socks, on shoes, in my carpet, and I even found some in my dishwasher one night. Red dirt can only mean one thing-Baseball!
At the beginning of each season, I love our first trip out to the fields. They are raked perfectly and the dark, thick white lines cut it into a perfect diamond. The white fluffy bags begging to be stolen and the red dirt. The contrast is almost, well, almost beautiful. I love the sounds of baseball, the feel of baseball, and the excitement of it all. Boys are everywhere with that uniform I love so much. I love to see sweaty little boys with red faces, dirty pants, and baseball caps. I love the bats sticking so high out of bags and the sound of their cleats as they walk past.
Eventually, the magic wears off a little as our days and nights are consumed with team practice, batting practice, and games...so many games. The piles of dirty baseball pants that never quite come clean and inside out socks that hold spoonfuls of red dirt. I still love it, but like anything else, what once held magic now becomes a chore.
I had gotten to this point after 10 minutes of sweeping up the spoonfuls of red dirt that fell to my laundry room floor from the rightsiding of an inside out sock. Not to mention the red dirt that graces the floor of my Suburban that not 30 minutes before I had tried to gently remove from my floor boards without spilling anymore. As I got the washer going, secretly praying that my Spray n Wash would miraculously remove the red dirt stains from Logan's game day pants, I noticed Cole removing socks as the three of the Fitzgerald boys were deep in some conversation in our kitchen. I didn't hear a word of it as I, in slow motion, watched the 10th spoonful of red dirt hit my floor that week. As I went to grab the broom and dust pan, I thought of all of the things I would say...until I heard their conversation. And I was reminded once again, why I love red dirt.
The three were in the process of hashing out the intricate rules of baserunning; when to run, when not to run, when to lead off, when to watch coaches. I heard Patrick explaining rules, acting out the scenerios, and being so animated I could almost picture the play in my head. They discussed batting, fielding, and dugout etiquette. Eventually the conversation turned slowly to life's lessons of dealing with their peers, bullies, tough coaches, working as a team but having individual responsiblities as well, obeying coaches, paying attention, and being ready for the "next play."
It occurred to me why I love baseball so much...aside from the obvious. An old song from Brooks and Dunn reminds me that lessons can come from everywhere. There is life at both ends of the red dirt trail that leads from the ball field through our cars into our home. The end on the field teaches my boys so many skills. Baseball is a unique sport in that it is a team effort but there are moments of individual effort only~hitting, pitching, catching a fly ball. These boys learn to work together but they also have to learn to pull their own weight. Every moment counts and one rally hit can turn a no-way win into a big W on the board. Even when it seems slow, things are always happening and you can't stop to space out for even a moment. I love the comraderie in the dug out and the double line walk of "good-game" at the end. Out there in that red dirt, they are being boys, working hard as individulas, and yet, becoming a team. Quick lessons are given between innings as boys are running out to positions or through the fence of the dug out.
But as that red dirt makes it to the car and into our home, it also brings with it life lessons. I love to watch Patrick encourage and teach through the chainlink fence of the dugout, but there is also something to be said when he climbs in his truck with a red-faced son and in the miles between the field and home, lessons are taught, mistakes are discussed, and plans for doing things differently are made. I've seen tears at the ball field become hoots of laughter pulling up to our home. I love the final statements of, "Ok, now remember..." Patrick is tough on our boys, much tougher than I could ever be, but I wouldn't have it any other way. He is in the process of making young men. They need this time of teaching from their Dad. In our home, pointers are given, maybe even an extra few minutes out in the park in front of our house to pitch the ball and tweek little details. It's like they are a team themselves and it is their "thing." The three of them go through game changing plays, good tips on second base, and batting stances as they eat their heated up dinners. The converations always include their teammates, good and bad, and Patrick is so faithful at weaving God's way into his discussion with them.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Baseball becomes a "when you walk by the way." As they walk through the lessons of teams, competition, good sportsmanship, hard work, friendships, and life, Patrick is teaching them diligently. He is teaching them to be men, strong in stature but also strong in their witness. He is teaching them things that I would have never thought of. They are seeking his advice and his help and basking in his encouragement and praise. He is such a good Dad. And he is providing life lessons on both ends of that red dirt trail.