The Game Changer

Author Frieda Dowler, The Game Changer, is published as one of the short stories in Heartland Christian Writers, Greenwood Native,I never much cared for the game of baseball until I moved into 823 West Main Street, small town USA. The simple stone home sat atop a hill facing a baseball diamond in the local park. Charming, we thought. We had moved the previous fall and come spring we got a lot of surprises from nature and wildlife in the yard. But the biggest surprise of all was at night in the park on the opposite side of Main Street. The lights from the baseball diamond lit up our living room like New York City. It commanded attention, silently shouting for me to watch the game of baseball. And so I did.

Each evening at dusk, I came out of the house and sat in a chair on the porch, inching my way closer to a subject of little interest. Adult coed teams slugged their way back into childhood as the florescent balls passed over home plate and the scramble began over and again. I laughingly imagined the pain they might experience the next day. Then one evening a group of boys being coached almost one on one captivated me; eight boys, seemingly between the ages of 8 and 10, and six men, presumably fathers. For five nights in a row, the relentless beacon of lights called me to carefully observe. My amusement altered as I became engrossed in baseball, watching this young team in action.

By day two, I realized my interest was not necessarily in the game itself but in the incredible skill of the young boys. These fathers had apparently dedicated time and energy to developing this kind of proficiency. They appeared to have a real love for the game and unstoppable confidence. I wondered how many years they had been playing the game and how many hours the fathers had dedicated to their coaching. But most of all, I wondered why they were being coached so fiercely.

By day six, my curiosity overcame my reluctance to impose and I made a decision to cross the street to observe from the set of bleachers between third base and home plate. Eavesdropping might lend a clue. But on day six, they didn’t come. Day seven I waited on my porch but they didn’t come and by day ten I thought I had lost the possibility of having my questions satisfied.

I couldn’t stop thinking about them. It affected my work. When I lost focus on my mundane and repetitive job I was interrupted by imagining the concentration it takes to watch a fist size ball whirling through the air and to execute it responsibly over and over again. Did those boys feel their activity was mundane and repetitive? They weren’t sloppy about their ball handling. Why was I so inattentive to my job? Their dedication compared to my own indifference disgraced me.