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Whew… that was a day. Three ball games down in Miesville for 20 Prospect Jr.’s weekend tournament. The boys went 1-2 so we will not be going back tomorrow, and I have to admit, I’m happy about that. It may be one of the loveliest valleys in Minnesota, but after spending 8 hours in the sun and wind, I really could use a day to sleep in.

Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect was off with friends at the local six-flags-ish amusement park, celebrating someone’s b-day, so it was just me and the missus, and the 2 pups. We packed a lunch, and snacks, and made a day of it. The little league fields in Miesville are almost as lovely as Jack Ruhr Field where the Mudhens play. It’s rare to find grass infields these days, on fields of this size. They were manicured like putting greens, and the weather was picture perfect.

This is a tournament team from 20P Jr.’s local little league, so it’s a sort of all star team that will play a couple of weekend tournaments. There’s only 1 boy that he knows from his usual team, so it is a whole new group of kids and coaches for him to get to know. For a shy kid, he does amaze me at times. When sports are involved he has no trouble making friends, and talking with strangers. Maybe I was the same way once, but I can’t recall.

We sat out in the bright sun, as puffy white clouds sailed like Spanish galleons through the blue sky, and watched a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds try to play a 19th century sport with more arcane rules, and traditions than you could master in a lifetime. After a seesaw battle, they won their first game. With 1 out and two on in the bottom of the last inning, they brought the tying run up to the plate. The batter looped a shot down the 3rd base line that looked for all the world like it would drop in for a double, when out of nowhere my son came sliding into the frame on his knees and made a terrific catch, then popped up onto his feet and doubled a runner off at second base to end the game. I have no idea where this kid learned how to play this game, as I sure as hell didn’t teach him that.

To his dismay though, after that catch the coach put him in left field the rest of the afternoon. So he spent the bulk of his time standing out there in the weeds watching the game go on around him waiting for the occasional ball to make it out his way. I felt a little bad for the kid, but knew that this is one of those life lessons that we all have to learn at some point. You can do your best, and still not be recognized.

Did he whine? No. Did he complain? No. So I was proud of the composure and maturity he showed. Which made it all the more remarkable tonight when we were putting him to bed, and he asked, “Dad, did you find a baseball when you were unpacking the bags?”

“No, I didn’t see one. Why?”

“There was a baseball in one of the bags, and I was wondering if you saw it, because after you were done unpacking I couldn’t find it.”

“Hmm… it’s possible that Mom just unpacked it and tossed it into your room. Is this it?” I asked holding up a ball that was laying on the floor.

“No, it was one of the game balls from today.”

“Hmm… I’ll go take a look.” I said as I walked out to the kitchen. After digging through some stuff on the counter I found a new, grass stained ball laying under my glove. Carrying it back into his room I held it up to him and asked “Is this it?”

“Yeah thanks!” he said brightening up.

Before I left, I turned and asked him. “Where did you get that ball from?”

That’s when he said, “The coach gave it to me in the dugout after I made that catch.”

“The coach gave you the game ball?” I asked

“Uh, huh. He gave me it during his speech after the game”

“Well” I said, “that’s something to be proud of.”

He just smiled back at me from the darkness.

Stepping out of the room, and turning off the hallway light, I was more proud of him for not telling us about getting the game ball from the coach, than I was about him making the catch. And like the proud Dad I am, I just walked down the dark hallway to the living room, smiling.

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