Beyond the Scoreboard


My youngest daughter plays softball, and occasionally, usually during the Fall season, we get a few games that go into the evening hours. And so, with darkness enveloping the turf, the field lights come on. These are good games. The air is usually a little cool as the Texas heat has started to wane and the dugouts are full of gear, girls, and coaches. We are an 8U league (8 years old and under for the uninitiated), so we stand on a unique line between play and competition. Some of the girls are starting to come into their own whereas some are just taking the field for the first time. Thus there are plenty of shouts from the stands and dugouts alike, intended to lift up, inspire, and educate the girls as they learn the ways of the game. “Good eye,” “Watch the ball,” and “Softball ready” are just a few of the communal instructions tossed out in both quantity and fervor.

I remember when my wife first mentioned the girls playing softball and I gave an approving, but unenthusiastic, nod of assent. It seemed like one of the normal things to do with young girls, but having zero experience myself with the sport growing up, or even with the boy counterpart of baseball, I was not exactly “pumped” for the season. I did play other sports as a youth, while growing up in a small southern Oregon town, but those memories are not strong, and as my later years would attest, I had interests outside of sports. Thus came into my life, in a rather uneventful way and with little gusto, this game of softball. But life is funny, and sometimes, many times if we know how and where to look, these seemingly commonplace experiences can reveal the hidden depths and beauty of the human experience.

Our first season was somewhat uneventful; my daughter did not get a single hit that spring. She did, however, get on base once, due to an errant pitch that struck her in the leg. Nevertheless, that first jog down to first, that first step on the bag, that was a big moment for her, and for me. There she stood, the victim of some random injustice, but with only excitement written on her face at this newfound opportunity to score. This was a softball first, but also something more. Somewhere amidst this new game of bats, bases, and occasional bruises, were deeper parallels with what life so often throws at us. Sometimes we get hit, for no fault of our own, and find ourselves with a choice to make. We can focus on the hurt, or we can seize the moment and look to score a run. These were good lessons, and they were all around us.

There is almost inevitably some moment now during games that I find myself, hands on knees (I never sit during softball), just taking in the scene around me. Parents are chatting with each other about the girls, about the umps (who have “obviously” missed some call), about their lives, or about any other number of things that appear in similar and equal fashion both mundane and poignant. There are other kids running around, some younger, some older, some spectating, some playing their own games, some getting food or drink at a concession stand, some just playing it cool in the stands. Every once in a while we get a dog who also likes to voice approval (or not) of the situation. It can seem hectic at times, but these are the sounds, never in short supply at our little softball field, of true Americana. A landscape rife with playful competitiveness and honest leisure. And it always strikes me, somewhere beyond the scoreboard, of how important this all is.

On these fields girls win games and girls lose games. And while the gravity of these moments is surely and vividly felt by each player, the story belongs to more than those who take the plate.

Every moment seized, every opportunity lost, every good ol’ thumping, whether given or received, contributes to a group sentiment. All present share in the same moments of triumph and tragedy in almost equal measure (trust me I know), and thus together a small community of parents and progeny alike find reason to celebrate, share in disappointment, or, like I try hard to impress upon my own children, look for that lesson that all failure offers up as consolation for dreams deferred. This is a game unique to time and place and yet, from within the confines of its rules and regulations, we find timeless examples of perseverance and togetherness.

I came into this game of softball in a pretty standard way, equipped with pretty standard expectations. We would have some busy gameday mornings, some wins and some losses, and a pizza party at the end of the year. What I have found, however, has included so much more. Here, on a little patch of field in a North Texas suburb, I found life being played out in simple but significant ways. I found community, expressed in some of its most real and meaningful narrations. With all its mystery, and the largeness of its purpose almost imperceptible, creation has nonetheless left us clues, hidden in plain sight, that reveal some of her innermost secrets. They are never far, always near at hand in the seemingly inconsequential, but ever so tangible, little things. I’m not convinced we are capable of seeing the whole picture, but I do absolutely believe we can catch a glimpse, in the dust and the sweat, of the bottom of the third.

Image via Flickr


  1. I love this article. It brought me right back to my little league days, and reminded me to be intentional with my kids in mundane moments of life.

  2. “…hidden in plain sight…” What a lovely account of community that we easily overlook. Recently we attended a pig show for area kids to show their livestock. From the opening prayer and singing of the anthem, to the different age classes showing prize pigs, I found my cynicism shifting from front and center where I too often keep it to deep in my pocket.

    • I love this Brian. It’s funny how the smallest of pivots can have the largest of impacts. Thank you my friend.

  3. Beautifully written. I love your perspective on something so common and the value that’s overlooked more often than not.


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