Headlines from First Thoughts

Sunday, June 21, 2009

First Impressions- Pee Wee Summer

The final play of Pee-Wee baseball ended on a double play. Parker's Red Team beat the Gold Team 10-9 in the bottom of the 6th. On this hot sticky day on the banks of the river in Sequoia Hills, however, another little boy was playing for the first time without his mother.

This space was supposed to be a season-ending column to thank Vance Link for another year of throwing pitches to 6/7 year old boys. Vance puts together a little two-day triple dip for the 7 year olds who will move up to Little League next year. We play on his field--Link-House field-- where he first played as a Knoxville boy. It would be enough to thank Vance for another great season. But he and his helpers go over the top with All-Star uniforms, public address announcements, and music in between innings. It's a Major-League-Style moment for the Pee-Wees-- and their parents.

Gratitude took a deeper and more sobering turn Saturday morning. Nancy Feist passed away suddenly early Saturday, and 5 children were left on this earth without their mother. I didn't know Nancy, but many of our folks did. She was a devoted Catholic. She and her family were Little League lifers. And one of the members of the gold team was her 4th child, Craig.

Vance Link broke the news to us Saturday morning. We were midway through the 2nd game of Parker's tournament. The first game was the night before. The 2nd and 3rd games were on Saturday. Craig Feist was on the field Friday night. He wasn't on the field at 9:00 a.m. for the sad announcement. Vance led us through the shocking news and coached us through what to do, how to feel, and how to respond as best we could. After a period of prayer and silence, we did the thing we knew to do. We played ball. By 1:00 p.m., for the 3rd and final game, some friends brought Craig so he could join his team for the last game. He batted first and played catcher. Vance introduced each member of each team as if they were future Hall-of-Famers moving up to the big leagues. For Craig Feist, the only thing a heavy-hearted crowd could do was cheer, and pray, and hope.

God's gift of living one day at a time is also a risk of tragic endings and great beginnings. We don't know when they are coming from either direction. But there was something about a beautiful spot and a great sport that made this the best place to be in such heartache. And we were all taught Saturday how to face grief with class and tears by one man who's been throwing and catching balls for 38 years. Thanks, Coach.

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