Cut to the next morning when I asked them how the game went.
"We didn't get to play," sighed Kyle.
"Something about the rain from the other day," said Drew.
"My dad said the field was still too muddy," reported Nathan, the coach's son. "But it's been rescheduled for Saturday morning!"
My mind started whirling. When I can carve out the time, I try to support my current and former students in their extra curricular activities. I've been to wrestling & track meets, baseball, basketball, and softball games, and school plays. And I'm pretty sure I get more out of it than they do.
"What time Saturday?" I inquired.
"I'm not sure," Kyle said. (Pause.) "Why? Can you come?"
"It depends on the time," I replied. "If one of your parents can text me the time and I can make it, I'll be there!"
Honestly, I didn't expect the text. I never think my students care whether or not I see them play, perform, or postulate. But they do. So when I got a text on Class Dojo last night from Kyle's mom ("Kyle wanted me to make sure to send you the information for his game tomorrow. It is at 11am at Community Park at the C6 Diamond") I really wanted to try and make it.
And then it happened, as it always does when students see me at their activities.
At the bottom of the second, as the team was coming back into the dugout to get ready to bat, Kyle glanced up into the stands and did a double-take, a huge grin sliding over his freckled face. I waved. He waved back, eyes dancing. He ducked down into the dugout. Nate's head popped up, eyes searching the stands. They locked on to me and Sarah, and he grinned, that infectious Nate smile that makes the world a happier place. I waved. He waved back, then ran over to Drew. Drew turned, bat in hand, and found us. Face lighting up, Drew tipped his hat, then turned to take a few practice swings before heading up to the plate. Jack was the last one to see me, the surprise evident on his face as Nate whispered in his ear.
The game continued through five innings. The kids played their hearts out. I got to see all the boys play several different positions throughout the next two hours. Drew and Nate both pitched, Kyle played several infield and outfield positions, and Jack saw action at first, shortstop, and third base. I watched them learn from their mistakes, nurture their resilience, and work together as a team. It was a thing of beauty, and not at all different from what they do in our classroom.
At the end of the game, after the coaches had a quick post-game with the kids, each boy came up to us.
"I'm glad you came!" Kyle smiled.
"That was so cool that you were here!" Nate said, hugging me gregariously.
Drew was quieter, taking the loss hard. I gave him a hug, told him how proud I was of his hard work and to hold his head high. He nodded, smiled, and walked across the field to watch his brother's game.
This is why I do this. Building relationships doesn't end after the first few weeks of the year. Nurturing those relationships continues until the very last day. It was two short hours of my life, but something these boys won't soon forget. I'll get those two hours back ten fold as the connections I made with them that Saturday morning in the sun continues to pay dividends through the end of May, and through the rest of their lives.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for creating a space to share my slice of life!