For all of those serving abroad. For all of those that serve here in the states. For those that have given the ultimate sacrifice so that I may have the freedom to post some words on a website on a regular basis. Today, we honor you. Today, we acknowledge all that you have done, will do, or are doing for the people of this country and of this world. Today, we take a break to say two very simple words, though they will never be enough.
The following story is fictional but is shared here for my love of the game and my respect for men and women in uniform.
Only two defining forces have ever died for you: Jesus and the American Soldier. Jesus died for your soul and the soldier died for your freedom. – author unknown
Somewhere in the world is a dust ridden square of ground that probably has never seen a patch of grass. The sun beats down on this area, unrelenting, causing everyone in sight to find whatever small piece of shade they can find.
A group of kids gathers around as a bag full of equipment is emptied at their feet. Beaten up baseballs, worn out gloves and dinged up bats fall near their feet. What might have been cast off equipment to you or I makes their eyes light up with wonderment.
Broken English is spoken by most of the kids, while some can barely speak English at all. They scramble to look at the equipment, picking up various pieces of catcher’s gear and wondering how to put it on or what it is used for. Their adult friends, dressed in camouflaged fatigues, begin to explain the game.
Over the next few hours the men will teach the young kids how to throw and catch, how to hit and pitch, and some basic rules of a game completely foreign to them. They will draw foul lines in the dirt and create makeshift bases with sandbags.
The men will become children all over again, running abound and kicking up dust as they play a loose game of baseball with the kids from the nearby town. Dressed in boots and sweat pouring from their bodies, the soldiers will connect with children that can barely communicate with them. A small crowd of locals gathers to watch the game unfold before them. Pretty soon, most of the town has gathered around to see the boys play this game.
For a brief moment in a violent and battle ridden area, American Soldiers will develop a relationship with young children starved for some understanding of these men and women in their land. The children will come to respect and understand the men a little bit more. No longer will they cower away, shy at their approach. No longer will they feel threatened. They will have developed a bit of a friendship with this soldier from a foreign land. Because those soldiers took time to share a game, a universal language, the American Pastime. Baseball.
Little do the kids realize that the soldiers discovered something of their own. They found a memory that would last a lifetime. They found a little bit of home on the other side of the world. They found humanity in a place that society tells them they don’t belong. They took the time and connected with another person, regardless of age, and discovered a little happiness in a depressing situation.
The following day the children will return to their daily lives. The soldiers will return to their ongoing battle. Some of them, both children and soldiers, will die on or near the makeshift baseball diamond they created. It is a reality of the war and the world they both exist in.
Baseball provided an opportunity, a break, from this harsh reality. Baseball created a connection that they all shared.
For a brief moment, a few hours, they found a piece of Heaven on Earth.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
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