Last night, I was one proud Mama Duck.
Here's the backstory: Jack and Charlie have played baseball since they were, like, 2. It all began with their little Fisher-Price Pop-Up Batting Tee toy. They have played every year they've been eligible, and have been fortunate enough to enjoy great, winning seasons. This year, however, things have been a bit rough. Their team, Mozzarelli's Pizza, has won maybe three games. At first, this was an extremely bitter pill for them to swallow. My heart ached for them after each loss, knowing how they'd played their own hearts out, yet having a victory kept just out of reach. I was also sad the night I realized the losses were becoming -- in their minds -- commonplace. But they still gave every bit of their hearts and souls to each game, pounding their fists into their gloves in the field, and taking clean cuts at the good pitches.
And then there was last night. It was their night.
Through the first few innings, the teams pretty much matched each other, run-for-run. Sometime in the 4th and 5th innings, however, Mozzarelli's pulled ahead. Charlie had his share of hits, landing him singles and a double or two -- where he proceeded to steal bases like a thief. And he was on fire in the field, tagging players out and being where he needed to be to make a play. When he relieved Jack as catcher, he got under a pop-up for a catch that could've made ESPN's highlight reel. And he made it look effortless.
Jack also had his share of hits, even a stand-up triple. In this league, they play 6 innings. And in his last at bat, with two on base, Jack cracked one out between right and center field. As he rounded second and headed for third, we could plainly see the huge grin on his face. This kid wasn't stopping at third. He wasn't stopping until he slid across home plate.
Which he did. Safe. An in-the-park home run, with two RBIs.
As if this wasn't crazy-good enough, my eyes filled with tears when I saw the rest of the players rushing from the dugout to congratulate Jack. With Charlie leading them all. I watched my sons leap into the air, hurling their slender frames at each other for a slap-dash chest bump.
At the bottom of the 6th, with two out, a player from the other team hit a pop-up, which the first baseman, Jack and Charlie's new pal Tristan, caught with no problem. As they rushed to line up and congratulate the other team on a game well-played, I leaned over to Tristan's parents and said, "I know what that other team and their families are feeling -- we've done it all season. But our boys deserved this one." They deserved it for all the games they lost... the ones played in the too-brisk spring air... the ones played in the rain... they deserved it for playing their hearts out, yet again, on an oppressively hot, humid night. They deserved it because they love. the. game. Not just Jack and Charlie, but every last one of their teammates.
You can't really make it out on the scoreboard, but the final score? 15-6