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Sandlot

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October 2018

Happy Anniversary! For what? For anything. For everything. Wishing someone a happy anniversary is like saying, “It’s five o’clock somewhere”—it’s always true. Today is a milestone for one reason or another, whether a birthday, a wedding, a job, a driver’s license, visit to the doctor, a first date, a second house, a third ticket. Fortunately, we don’t celebrate them all. Buying all those anniversary cards can get expensive.

But this year is a special anniversary for a magical movie. Twenty-five years ago, The Sandlot was released. It’s an adult’s reminiscence of his growing up the summer of 1962 in southern California. New to the area, Scott Smalls happened upon eight boys who made a sandlot baseball field their second home. For them, baseball was life—and they were good at it. Their lives were filled with adventures on and off the field.

The boys had only one real problem. When someone slugged a homer, they either had to find a new ball or quit playing. On the other side of the home-run fence was a dog, a big dog—The Beast—who’d eat anyone. At least that’s what they imagined given that they couldn’t see through the fence. So when Smalls hit a homer over it, their problems really started. It was his stepdad’s ball, one autographed by Babe Ruth, the Babe Ruth! Scheme after scheme failed to recover the ball until, at last, the boys came face-to-face with the dreaded Beast. They learned that the dog was neither as big nor bad as they imagined. Smalls got a new ball, this one autographed by Murderer’s Row—the entire 1927 New York Yankee team. The Beast became the boys’ mascot. And Smalls’ life changed forever. Baseball became his life.

There have been some great baseball movies through the years. But some of baseball’s best moments are not captured on the big screen. The story goes that Shay, a severely disabled boy, and his father were walking past a boys’ baseball game when Shay asked, “Do you think I can play?” Understanding his son’s desire to belong, the father asked one of the boys if Shay could play. The boy’s team was down by six runs late in the game. “What’s the harm?” he thought, and after conferring with teammates, all agreed to put Shay in the game. Shay went into the outfield and managed to stay out of trouble. His team even scored three runs in the bottom half of the eighth inning.

In the bottom of the ninth, Shay’s team was still fighting. With two outs, they loaded the bases. The next batter up? Shay. He didn’t know how to hold a bat let alone hit, but he stepped up to the plate. The opposing pitcher moved up close and softly lobbed the ball homeward. Swing and a miss. One of Shay’s teammates held the bat with him to give the bat a little stability. This time Shay made contact, but it was only a weak dribbler back to the pitcher, who just needed to step on home plate to end the game.

But he didn’t. He threw the ball wildly, high over the first baseman’s head. Shay ran as best he could to first base, where a teammate directed him to second. When he safely reached, he didn’t know what to do; the opposing shortstop turned him in the direction of third base and told him to run. Shay’s teammates started to yell, “Run, Shay! Run!” as the first baseman threw the ball across the field and down the right field line. As Shay hit third and boys yelled, “Run home, Shay! When he made it safely, boys from both teams mobbed him, lifting him high on their shoulders. Shay was a hero! From his place watching the game, Shay’s father cried. He had just witnessed 18 boys reaching their best level of God’s perfection.

No knows whether that story is factually true, but it is filled with truth. And really, there are two truths to treasure. The first is that everyone, even if severely disabled, has a role to play in God’s creation. We rejoice with Shay because he found a place where he could be accepted for who he was. With help, he showed off his ability—not his disability. He had the ability to move people. It’s no easy feat.

The second truth is about the other 17. Going into that game, every one of them wanted to win. As they continued to play, they still wanted to win. But in the eighth inning, they realized that there was something more important. Not only did Shay’s teammates put on the field a player who didn’t know how to field, they allowed him to bat at the most critical moment. Seeing their sacrifice, the opposing players were willing to do the same. Shay could have been five outs all by himself. Instead, he was a hero. That day, so were 17 others.

As of this writing, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his family are swinging in the wind. And whether he is confirmed or not, our nation’s sense has been badly damaged. We have watched senators phony up stories and take the judge’s words entirely out of context. We have watched them withhold information that they knew months before the hearing, all to delay a vote on his confirmation and to poison people against him. We have watched the media and abortion supporters claim the truthfulness of an accuser’s story even before she said a word. In the name of what? In the name of legal abortion and political power. Through the Kavanaugh hearings, we are witnessing the spreading, ugly evil effect of legal abortion. It has a never-ending hunger to divide and destroy. Like a gigantic snake, it will squeeze the life—and the decency—out of anyone and anything in its path. It must be stopped.

In about a month, we will vote for a new federal Congress. We tend to vote as Democrats and Republicans. Instead, we need to see ourselves as Catholics and as Christians and to vote accordingly. For some, it will require sacrifice. But as the boys learned, there are more important things than winning a game. We have the ability reach our best levels of God’s perfection. Let’s unite in the effort. Together, we can make the Father cry.

 

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2018. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/ and on Facebook.

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