The Shaq of Softball

Adriana rounds third base at school's Play Day

I have been having a ball the past couple of afternoons at our CDI (Children’s Development Program).  I love to walk with Margarita and the kids to the church, watch the boys play some soccer, and sit in the back row on the elevated part of the patio during the devotional.  I’m there trying to learn their songs, to help the little kids find the Bible lesson…or point out that Proverbs is not in their New Testament Bibles, and to set an example of reverence and comportment.  This in itself is a joy for a retired teacher.

There are always some little girls about Adriana’s age or a little older that put their chairs next to or in front of my stool under the giant shade tree.  Some of them have been my students at the colegio  before it shut down and we have a long-standing relationship.  A few just know me from being one of the few male presences on the campus.  It just feels good when the kids want to sit near you.  Adriana is no longer jealous when one of her compañeras puts her head on my lap or holds my arm.  As long as they don’t ask for nickels afterward, I’m fine with it.

Yesterday, before we assembled for the devotional, one or two of the little girls came out with the small bat and a softball and wanted to play on the patio.  They’ve been learning softball in school and from my observation on “play day” at Centro Escolar Francisco GavidiaI the other day, they are enjoying this American sport.  Azucena asked me to play.  Then Mónica.  Soon there was a gaggle of gigglers wanting to play softball.  I couldn’t resist.

We played until the bell rang.  I pitched for our team and did all I could do to hit the bat with my pitches.  I let them play by their rules and didn’t try to get anyone out.  When I batted, they asked me not to hit hard.  I just let the ball hit my bat and roll on the cement.  Little girls are not the best ball stoppers and a couple of times my “hits” rolled off the elevated section onto the sidewalk below.  But everyone was having a good time.

After the devotional, they had a free period and we resumed the game.  No one counted runs.  It was a game not a tournament.  Margarita sat with the cooks and watched her husband enjoying one of the things he’s loved to do all his life, play ball.

It felt a bit funny at first being a giant towering over these genetically short kids.  It was like Shaq playing school yard basketball.  But when I was teaching, I always played with my fourth graders.  I got used to it.  The kids.  It was all about the kids.

Today, I was mobbed almost immediately upon entering the campus.  The girls had the teams arranged and made sure that one of the bigger little girls, one who can hit, was on one team and I on the other.  An additional joy was having my little Adriana playing first base on my team.  She’s a hustler.  When the ball was hit and the runner passed her on first base she’d cut to the middle of the “infield” for a cut off.  If the ball were hit to the right side, she’d run it down.

At one point, the “big” girl decided she wanted to play on my side.  The smaller girls had a meeting at the plate which I didn’t understand.  They were all talking at once.  Finally, another big girl came to play and everyone was happy.  The game went on and we played until the bell rang.  Shaq went home to shower but found the water was still off.  At 9:00 p.m. it’s still off.  I don’t smell too bad but I am sticky.  There’s always tomorrow.

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