Rebuilding years

I recently watched the local high school baseball team in action, and it was clear they were fulfilling the promise of their early practices,  that promise being:  We are going to be bad.

So it was that the opposing Rye Thunderbolts — bussed from a dinky, less prosperous school down south —  managed six runs before the bottom of the first. Already a sense of sad inevitability hung over the home team’s boosters,  as hazy and grey as the dour sky.

They were quietly aligning themselves with a hard truth:   As much as we wish for miracles, the power of the ordinary drapes the theater of the possible like a thick wet blanket; the play of life turns more often toward the predictable than the remarkable.

In this instance, the Rye players were older, bigger and stronger than our team, which is in what’s known as a rebuilding year, a term you cannot help but admire for its optimism.   Also,  their pitcher often found the strike zone, while the ball in the hand of ours assumed the behavior of a small magnet, hurtling toward and then repelled from a similarly magnetized plate.   Rye runners readily advanced on a succession of walks.

The home team’s offense also struggled,  earning hits but then squandering them in base running that lacked judgment and hustle.  Repeatedly, our boys got caught attempting to steal bases, bringing to mind hapless bank robbers about whom you occasionally hear,  their hold-up notes written on the back of a utility bill or some other identifying information.  Some people are not meant for a life of crime.  hesout

By the bottom of the third —  the Rye boys padding their lead while the home team remained scoreless —  it was evident there would be no deus ex machina this day, nor likely this season.  Indeed, the game ended by mercy rule after five innings,  Rye blanking our boys 12-0 and adding another loss to the growing tally.

In baseball as in life, things often turn out just as poorly as you’d expect;  the evidence that first suggests later affirms.  No loveliness intervenes to save the day, no majesty or blessing.

And still, we hope.  In what may be the most endearing and absurd quality of the human species, we look illogically toward an improbably better future.  The career that never met its acme will do so, on some certain if unpredictable day;  the quest for true and enduring love will finally be fulfilled;  the strife and missed connection that complicate and sometimes define family life will resolve.  Defying all reason,  the ordinary present will be redeemed, sooner or later,  by an extraordinary future to which it is leading us invisibly and mysteriously but implacably.

And, well: Maybe.

These young ball players will of course grow; they’ll gain stature, muscle and experience.  After another indifferent season or two, they may earn by long effort what grace is now withholding:  a winning season, or even a championship. That’s the thinking, anyway, during a rebuilding year; that’s the hope.

And, well:  Maybe.

But watching them, it’s hard to value the uncommon glory of their possible future over the authenticity of their present quotidian bumbling.  It all feels so familiar and tender, so human:  the earnest striving and determined belief in a better day, despite the weight of history and evidence,  despite the aching absence of miracles.  The touching perpetuity of rebuilding years, season to season, back to back:  the sole and common assurance of our ordinary lives.





  1. Oh, how I remember days like this. The first year I played peewee football, my team scored one touchdown the entire season… Things improved in the years after that, but still I remember that feeling of being hopelessly overwhelmed.


    1. I recall many a losing season, too. Thankfully, there were many compensations, the suppleness of youth and the spirit of play key among them.

      Liked by 1 person

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