No matter what your feeling is about America’s Pass-time (that would be baseball) or how much you know about the game, I am confident that even the most ignorant among us know one thing:
“There’s no crying in baseball!”
This morning was full of crying, whining, and general crankiness. I’m not talking about myself—just my 14 month old. The poor kid doesn’t know which end is up after several major changes this month. After four hours of struggling with my inconsolable son, I finally looked into his tear-filled blue eyes and asked exasperatedly, “What is it that you want?!” His little lip quivered and he pitifully answered with a tiny wail, “Dad!” Unfortunately, trying to explain deployment to a 1 year old is like teaching an outfielder how to know where to throw to make the out; it’s possible, but for it to work it will take some time and experience. Today I was thinking of one of the finest baseball movies of all time, A League of Their Own. Really, being on the home-side of deployment a lot like baseball…except there is crying. When mothering young children and wartime collide, there can be A LOT of crying. Hence the humor in seeing Stillwell (Angel) getting smacked with a mitt. Those who don’t think there’s crying in baseball have never endured 4 year old t-ball. (When 90% of the kids are crying, call the game and go get ice-cream to fall back and re-group.) The outstanding script has several quotes and scenes that resonate with my present situation.
When the boys go to war, those left behind try to do what the men do and fill in the gaps while still maintaining their femininity and carrying out their roles. There were very few moments of all-out crying, feeling sorry for oneself, or really dwelling on the weight of the situation. Instead the girls formed a team, worked together, and had the experience of a lifetime. In the moments where a sister needed help, they rushed to the rescue. When the character of Shirley Baker couldn’t find her name on the roster and was overwhelmed by a barking coach, a fellow player rushed and asked the obvious question, “Can you read, Honey?” She didn’t mind her own business or belittle her—she used her knowledge to help and then celebrated a victory with a new teammate. By the end of the season, Shirley has been taught to read despite the questionable content provided by “All the way May”. The girls laughed, sang, painted nails, danced, and played ball. Despite their issues, these women were on a team, working toward the same goal. In baseball, no one is victorious alone.
Then there are the more difficult scenes that less than 1% of the population can personally relate to, although every viewer emerges emotionally stirred. As Dottie and Jimmy ride on the bus he reassures each other that mailboxes aren’t on every corner in combat zones; no news is good news. The night before the World Series as Dottie sobs in her room, her husband knocks on the door, surprising her with an early return from war. In those first few minutes of having my uniformed husband home from the warzone I have often echoed Geena Davis’ thought, “Can we just stand here and hold each other for the rest of our lives?” Unfortunately, the real life injury and death notifications and military funerals are not quite as beautifully acted as the heartbreaking scene where the two military spouses, Dottie Henson and Betty “Spaghetti” hold their breaths and wonder whose season will have been cut short by a yellow telegram. I have played the role of Rosie O’Donnell who silently cries with sympathetic heartbreak as my fellow wives pay the cost of war that no Defense budget can offset.
Despite all the wins, home-runs, phenomenal catches, and sometimes even carrying all of Stillwell’s toys to the World Series, there are still days where I just feel like it’s too hard. Thanks to my movie quoting brain, Tom Hanks immediately enters the scene with the advice I cling to on days where it gets too hard:
“It’s what gets inside you and lights you up. You can’t deny that!”
“It just got too hard.”
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it weren’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”
No matter how devoted a family may be to the military life and to the support of their soldier and nation, there are days where we look forward to it all being over. Then invariably someone will jump in and tell me that despite the moving, goodbyes, fears, losses, and time apart, I will miss it. Enter Geena Davis:
“Miss it? You think I’d miss putting on all this gear, playing a double header in 100 degree heat? Pushing the bus through the mud? Getting slammed into every other day by a base runner?” Then the voice of reason, which has usually jumped into the mouth of another sister-in-arms will respond emphatically, “YEAH!” At the end of it all, it is my hope that my hero will one day look at me as Bill Pullman did when he watched Geena Davis in the World Series and proudly yelled, “That’s my wife!”
Yes, military life is still a lot like baseball. The uniforms have changed, the salaries have improved, games are more expensive, clichés abound, the players ‘are dealing with a lot of crap’ (Bull Durham), and there are lots of onlookers who will never be happy 100% of the time. The rules may change over time, but the game remains constant.
“The one constant throughout all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steam rollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, erased, and rebuilt again but baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and will be again.” – James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams
Whether it’s young motherhood or active duty during wartime, it’s just for a season—just like baseball. Right now it’s the beginning of my season. God bless the supporters that continue to cheer when there is no home-field advantage. My devoted season ticket holders, thank you for being there on the hard days and being willing to pinch hit until my hero touches home plate. Those who mow our yards, watch our kids, send care packages, and come to visit help us keep our eye on the ball during double-header days. I have no prayer of batting 1,000 or pitching the perfect game this season, but I will do my utmost for the love of the game, the love of my soldier, and the love of my country– “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Play ball.
“Batter up! Hear that call! The time has come for one and all to play ball.”