**This was originally published on Thursday, August 8, 2013, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**
“It may not be the RIGHT thing to do, but it’s the THING to do,” said my hubster after a particularly tense baseball game.
“But if it isn’t the right thing to do, then isn’t it the wrong thing to do?” I asked, trying to understand the logic of situational ethics.
The situation in question had occurred when an opposing pitcher in our men’s baseball league had purposely hit one of our players. Since the hit batsman happened to be our ace pitcher, our team’s strategy was that HE would hit THEIR pitcher next time he was up to bat.
I disagreed with the strategy, arguing that it was antiChristian. The hubster informed me that baseball was different—that such “eye for an eye” behavior was expected in a fiercely competitive atmosphere.
So good ethics for daily living are discarded on the field of play? Really?
This ethics morass in baseball troubles me. Yes, this game which I so love is indeed a competition where the best man/team wins, but must we incorporate dirty play? Must we bean them with a pitch after they bean us? Must we take performance-enhancing drugs to make us more successful? Have we lost some of the beauty and joy of America’s grand old game?
Then I was reminded of something that happened in that tension-filled ballgame when even I—mild-mannered Leslie—stood up from the bleachers and cried, “Let’s just all go home. We don’t have to play under these conditions!” (The ump had just unfairly removed one of our players after accusing him of doing something he truly didn’t do.)
Shortly after the explosive situation on the field, a Hispanic boy—maybe 14—wandered up to the bleachers with his mother in tow. She did not speak English. They sat right beside me although the bleachers were fairly empty. At first, that irritated me.
Then he began talking to me, which normally irritates me as well in the middle of an action-packed game. But his face was so cherubic and innocent and his voice so polite and kind that I was quickly won over.
“Is your team the blue team?” he asked with a sweet smile. As I nodded yes, he declared, “Then I’m pulling for them, too!”
Then in a tone of awed wonder, “Are they a professional team?” I laughingly assured him they were not.
My heart melted even more as the boy kept explaining the game to his clueless mother with a respectful, loving tone. I understand Spanish fairly well and tried not to chuckle at his somewhat muddled explanations.
I asked him if he watched baseball on TV. He said sometimes. I told him I liked the Yankees. He got excited and said that was the team that played football in New Jersey, wasn’t it? I hid a smile as I explained to him that the Yankees were a baseball team in New York.
He obviously did not understand the rules of baseball very well, so I explained some fundamental ones to him so that he could, in turn, teach his mother. His mistakes were cute ones a much younger child might make, yet this teenager was so humble that no embarrassment entered into his realization that he had a lot to learn.
Suddenly I was seeing this tired old game with new eyes—like someone watching it for the first time and finding great joy in it. I was a little girl again, watching MLB with my dad as he explained the game to me.
Then a fan nearby yelled something in a mean tone to the umpire. The fan’s cohort loudly echoed the ugly sentiment. Puzzled, the boy turned to look at the angry fans. His face was truly troubled—pained, even.
I felt horribly embarrassed. It was as if we had besmeared something innocent, as if we had poured black grease onto a solid white robe.
I apologized to the boy and explained to him that we had had some unfair officiating earlier. He smiled kindly and tried to understand. But I was ashamed—ashamed of my previous fit of temper and ashamed of the continued loudmouthed heckling by others.
Before long, the boy turned to me with his humble demeanor and thanked me for talking with him. His dark eyes were alight as he wished our team the best. “Maybe I’ll come back some time, and you guys will be playing again!” he said, as if it were the deepest desire of his heart.
As they stood to go, his mother nodded to me and tried to convey her appreciation in broken and heavily-accented English. She finally just stopped and haltingly said “Thank you” with an appreciative smile.
As he walked away, the boy turned back with a smile of pure joy and waved to me. Although I have returned many times to that field in High Point, I have never seen him again. I don’t even know his name. But I will never forget him. His behavior was so “unearthly” that I have even questioned if he was a real person or if I was entertaining an angel unawares, as the Good Book says we will sometimes do.
Later, as my hubster insisted that intentionally hitting a batter “may not be the right thing to do, but it’s the thing to do,” I felt led to tell him the story of the innocent boy and his joy in watching that game. In the telling of the story, my voice unexpectedly broke, and my eyes filled with tears. My hubster’s eyes also got suspiciously moist as he shook his head and said, “I was wrong. The right thing to do is ALWAYS the right thing to do.”
Sometimes it takes an innocent child to turn us back to the old paths of what is good and pure.