Boy Plays Ball

I wasn’t going to blog today, but a friend in the Bay Area — don’t dare call it “Frisco” — sent along a link to an article. She said it reminded her of me. The article was written by Carl Steward and appeared in The Oakland Tribune.

It begins:

THE DEGREE to which a boy can love the game of baseball is incalculable. But in the emotionally searing story of Hudson Davis, we gain some idea. ß The 12-year-old from Lafayette is nearing the completion of a Little League season in which he helped pitch and hit his team to first place and was named to his league’s all-star squad. That would be a distinguished achievement for any youngster.

What’s especially remarkable about Hudson is that he did all that while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for a malignant brain tumor discovered long before his season started. Nothing was going to stop Hudson from playing baseball. His persistence inspired his parents, coaches, friends, teammates and even Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

For Hudson, the motivation was simple. He wanted to play baseball.

“The only time you saw a smile on the kid’s face was when he was on the baseball field,” said Greg Davis, Hudson’s father. “It was the only time he could really escape all the things that were happening to him. He’s been through hell and back with all the stuff he’s been through. But playing baseball definitely helped him get through it.”

To read the full story, click here.

To me, yes, it absolutely resonates in all the essentials with my son’s experience, which helped inspired parts of Six Innings. Baseball took on an out-sized importance in our lives. And while it’s nice that Hudson was able to play well, my Nick was not as fortunate. He struggled. But as I kept reminding myself while Nick played in his weakened state: The victory is in the playing. As parents, we tend to get too caught up in home runs and wins, and sometimes fail to see the importance of simply being on a team, jogging out between the white lines, and for an hour or two endeavoring to lose one’s self in a game. Just being a boy amongst other boys. Win or lose, hit a homer or strike out.

I’ve come to believe that most boys of a certain age (let’s say, oh, 10-14) are overwhelmingly social animals; they desperately want to run with the pack, and that instinct increases exponentially when something occurs to single them out, to make them different in some way. During those times, the isolated child longs to fit in, longs to be-long. And what better way than to wear the same laundry? Put on the same shirt, pants, and hat. The uniform of belonging, dress like everybody else. Then they go out on the grass, play a game, and win or lose together.

I wrote about this same thing — without cancer, and without baseball — in my new book, Along Came Spider (Scholastic, Fall ’08). And in a different way, it pops up again in another book, Bystander (Feiwel & Friends, Fall ’09), which I’m just now revising. One book deals with spectrum disorders, another addresses bullying in a middle school. But they all share that same undercurrent: boys struggling to belong, and the tension they sometimes feel when faced with the need to stand alone as an individual.

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