Our Field of Dreams in Bristol, Connecticut

By Jim Wallis 8-05-2011

'baseball glove' photo (c) 2007, Sean Winters - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

If you are a 12-year-old baseball player, it looks like a field of dreams. There are huge bleachers wrapped around home plate, extending into left and right field. Behind home, there is a high official box where the game is announced, scores are kept, and reporters watch and write their stories. The field itself looks carefully tended with freshly cut green grass, and a flat-raked dirt infield without potholes, bumps, or ditches. And the beautiful grass of the outfield extends to actual fences, which each player hopes to reach as they gaze at the most perfect baseball diamond that any of them have ever played on.

We are in Bristol, Connecticut for a week at the annual Eastern Regional Little League Baseball Tournament. Last night, an announcer stood near the pitcher's mound with a microphone. He welcomed and congratulated each of the 12 teams that made it here out of 2,000, having each group of players stand to applause. Then there was talk of baseball, and history, and players who had been there as young boys and now play in the Major Leagues, or NHL hockey, or NBA basketball. And one who went on to become a New York City fireman from Engine Company 3, all of whom went into the Twin Towers on 9/11 helping many people out, but none of whom ever came out themselves. He was a right-fielder, always the 9 player on the diamond and scorebook, and his number was 11. Number 11 is memorialized on the right field fence.

Our son Luke's baseball team won the District of Columbia tournament two weeks ago, and is here representing the city of Washington, D.C.; playing the state champions of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey in our first four games. We are not the league from D.C. that usually wins, preferring a more egalitarian and less competitive ethic than the league that normally comes here from the nation's capital.

But our final deciding game was a story book comeback. Down 6-4 in our top of the sixth and last inning, we already had two outs; and our last batter was facing a 0-2 count -- no balls and two strikes. We were just one strike away from going home, and not to Bristol. But the hitter was our lead-off batter, Ty; and he did his job by lacing a single to center field. One runner on. Then our number two hitter Matt fought at the plate and got a walk. Two runners on. But still two outs. Drama was really building now when our number three hitter, Ethan, swung hard and doubled -- scoring both runners! Tie game! But still two outs. Luke, the number four batter, has the job of always swinging hard, and he did, doubling in the go ahead run! Finally, our number five hitter, Henry, doubled once more bringing home Luke's run and taking a 6-4 lead. Hit, walk, hit, hit, hit from the top of the order; a four run rally with two outs. But then we had to hold. Our rivals got one run and then had runners at second and third with two outs. But a slow grounder to the left side and a throw to first with a second to spare ended the inning and the game, as their runner from third crossed home meaninglessly.

Our players had been standing against the fence in the dugout, with their arms around each other, sending each batter to the plate, one at a time, to do their jobs; and they did. Now they were leaping into the air, joyously hugging each other and their parents and their siblings and everyone in sight, as they realized they were going to Bristol. They have been walking on air ever since. At a press conference with the Mayor, honoring the team and sending them off with the city's blessing, one of the players was asked to speak. He reflected, "We didn't just think we could win, we believed we could, and we never gave up

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