This is a note I am using with permission from my friend Zac Muncy.
Thursday night was a treat for me. I dropped off my younger son for Searcy American Legion baseball practice at Crain-Yancey Field, something he has been urged to participate in by his high school baseball coach as part of their summer workout. I hadn’t planned to stay around to watch. But as I pulled around the parking lot that night, a parking lot that was completely full, I heard the roar from parents and fans of younger baseball players who were playing on the adjoining baseball complex. I changed my mind about leaving and eventually found a parking spot. I decided on the spur of the moment to wander over to the baseball complex to catch some of my younger friends playing.
At my church I am privileged to be surrounded by a bunch of good kids. Many of these kids I’ve worked with in our Lads-to-Leaders program. I’ve told many of these kids that I planned to come watch them play baseball this summer, and Thursday night was a great opportunity for me to do so.
As I headed toward the sports complex, I happened to run into my “twin brother,” as many in our church say—Jeff Montgomery. Folks at church get us mixed up for some reason, so it’s been a good joke for us to play the part. His kids call me “Uncle Zac”; I call Jeff “brother” and his wife, Julie, “sister.” I consider their kids my nieces and nephews. Jeff and one of my “nephews”, Jalen, who was all dressed in his baseball uniform and carrying his glove, were heading to Jalen’s game. This just confirmed my decision to stay.
I arrived at one T-ball field and saw Jimmy Citty playing. It’s hard to tell the T-ball players because their baseball caps cover their faces! But I recognized him. I wandered over to another field where I noticed that Brad Francis and Glen Metheny were coaching their sons. I saw Griffin Metheny, and my "nephew" Jackson Montgomery, but I couldn’t find Brad’s son—I’m sure he was out there, though! I, then, wandered over to another game and saw Bryan Burks coaching first base, so I thought to myself, “I’ve found another friend playing!” Sure enough, Weston Burks was playing. Grandpa Burks (don’t know if that’s what he is called—he’s Dr. David Burks, president of Harding University, to most folks!) came up beside me to watch Weston, and I overheard a conversation about Weston’s brother, Carter Burks, playing at the same time on another field. Carter is one of these boys that I have promised often to come watch him play, and I got the opportunity to do so. On his team were two other friends, Kohl Blickenstaff and Trey Davis. What a jackpot of friends! But I wasn’t finished. I walked over to another field and noticed that Shane Fullerton and Ronnie Harlow were coaching a team, so I got to see Pate Fullerton and Ronnie’s boy play. I wandered back over to one of the T-ball fields where Jalen Montgomery was playing and saw Miles Kreh playing. This was fantastic, to see so many friends playing. I was disappointed that I missed one friend, however—Davis Morgan. I’ve wanted to watch him play, but he wasn’t playing that evening (or at least I didn’t find him). There may have been others that were playing that I didn’t recognize, but all in all, it was a great evening to come to the ballpark.
I laughed and smiled the entire time I was there. I laughed when I witnessed two T-ball players on the same team “fighting” over who was going to stand on 2nd base while a base runner was coming toward them! I smiled as I watched all of these kids just having fun playing a game. I was heartbroken, however, when I heard a coach of an 8-year old team yelling at a kid and the umpire (the umpire happened to be one of my younger son's classmates who I've coached in soccer for a few years).
Wandering around the baseball complex brought back so many memories with my two sons. I was fortunate to coach them when they were younger, and I remember the excitement they had going out to the ballpark to play. Winning or losing didn’t matter. What mattered was getting that snow cone after the game! The good, old-fashioned rainbow snow cone!!
As I watched Carter, Kohl, and Trey play (all 5th Graders, by the way), I asked myself, “Am I smarter than a 5th Grader?” Am I even smarter than a 5-year old (T-ball age)? I go through a typical day of worry, stress, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, frustration, and occasionally anger. I focus on short-term projects or goals; I routinely consider my family’s budget and where my monthly bills fit into that; I have to juggle a busy schedule of events involving my sons and my family. I consider all of the earthly, physical, non-eternal things I do on a day-to-day basis, and I ask myself, again, the question: “Am I smarter than a 5th Grader?”
Thursday night, my answer would be “no.” I am not smarter than a 5th Grader because I often forget the presence of God in His most simplistic form. That night, I observed God working in a hate-filled, angry world. I saw God in the hearts of young boys just having fun playing a game at its most simplistic form. Did everyone play perfectly? Hardly, but it didn’t matter. The joy is putting on a uniform, a baseball cap, a glove, and taking the field in front of a bunch of loud-mouthed, cheer-roaring parents giving kudos at every chance they could. The fun is running around a ball field trying to throw a ball. The joy is striking the ball with your bat. And, of course, the highlight is a post-game snow cone. I see why Jesus loved being around children and why he chastised us adults for our behavior, urging us to be like children, not necessarily in behavior, but in heart.
And I realized Thursday night that I was in the presence of God—T-ball heaven.