I didn’t expect to experience anxiety over somebody else’s graduation. Granted, it’s my two sons who are graduating this year—one from college and one from high school. Same day, actually. Nine hours apart.
But why am I feeling anxious? My boys have made excellent plans. Both will stay in Kentucky: Steele at law school in Louisville and Clay at Centre College. And look, Kentucky is familiar territory. My wife and I raised our sons in the town where I grew up, and both boys went to my high school.
Where we took different paths was athletics. They both played baseball; I played trombone. And I think it’s the damn baseball thing that’s eating at me.
I did play baseball, you know—Little League in fifth and sixth grade. How I spawned two varsity players, I don’t know. (And I’ve been asked—seriously.)
My boys never showed major-league potential, but both played high school ball each spring, plus summer ball and fall ball. Over the past 15 or 16 years, we just fell into the rhythm of the sport.
I took them to practice. I threw with them in the back yard. Mary Beth and I went to their games. We drove to towns and cities and dusty fields throughout Kentucky and surrounding states. And we did all this with other baseball families—players and parents—for hours and seasons and years.
I can write a book about baseball; I really can. I’ve actually outlined its chapters. It won’t be about the actual sport. It’ll focus on the lessons I’ve learned from being in the rhythm of baseball: the games and the players, the hopes and frustrations, the wins and the disappointments.
Staying flexible is the most important lesson I’ve learned. The game itself is traditional and often plodding, but living it day-to-day is a daggone crapshoot. Coaches seek greener fields, better results and more promising players. Schedules, rosters, lineups and locations change at the drop of a mitt. Each season brings a different cast of characters to the stage.
And rain threatens, as do cold April nights and easy-bake July days.
But I settled into an unsettled rhythm. Baseball was always predictably unpredictable. Reliably fickle.
During Steele’s high school days, we plugged along as a so-so team for years—until the week we won the state title. In baseball terms, that’s like bunt, walk, bloop … GRAND SLAM! I know about baseball terms, see. I told you about that book.
But baseball isn’t only about the bloops or the weather or even the games. It’s about the people. They provide harmony to the rhythm. Not always in tune, of course. They were often loud. But funny. Or obnoxious. Yet enjoyable. Mostly. But sometimes irrational. Occasionally ugly. But mostly caring.
It’s a full damn orchestra, for sure.
And with Clay leaving high school, there’s no more high school baseball. The orchestra is disbanding. The rhythm of baseball will halt.
Life will go on, of course. I just don’t know where I’ll pick up the beat. Thus my anxiety about somebody else’s graduation.
But hey, I’m flexible. Right?