Some would say it’s the sound of spring, the low but ubiquitous roar that rises up from city parks and sandlots all across the land. For along with the crisp crack of the bats–or the sad swish of a strikeout–from the bleachers and sidelines you can hear it fill the day or evening skies, no matter how a particular pint-sized player may actually be performing or not.
“Good eye!” they will tell him, parental code for “At least you were looking at the pitcher this time.”
“Way to get a piece of it!” they will empathize if the bat comes even close to actually making contact with the ball, however accidentally.
“You can do it,” they will cheer, while quietly praying that nothing really is impossible with the Lord.
For if there is one job that parents and grandparents have at a Little League contest–aside from bringing snacks and buying the siblings snow cones, of course–it is to encourage their kids and root them on, whether the game they are playing actually resembles America’s perennial pastime or not.
But then that is really the responsibility of all of us anyway, I suspect. For just as Barnabas was known in the early church as the “son of encouragement,” offering up words of hope and healing to others truly is the task of all who would call Jesus Lord in this life.
Maybe that’s why, in fact, some believe that the unnamed writer of the Book of Hebrews was Barnabas himself. For whoever penned that epistle suggested that we should “encourage one another day by day” and then he went on to admonish us to consider just how we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
There are always a few folks on the sidelines with a different demeanor, of course, those obnoxious and annoying parents who yell at both the players and their coaches, making you wonder what on earth happened in their childhoods that they are still trying to work out decades later.
But on the whole, the bleacher brigade usually gets it, yelling their positive affirmations to every child who steps up to the plate, whether it is their own proud progeny, or even a kid from the other team. And that is when baseball becomes more sacrament than sport, at least in my mind.
Proverbs 12.25 is right: “anxiety in a person’s heart weighs us down, but a good word makes us glad.” And indeed, whether we strike out or hit a homer, who among us couldn’t stand to hear at least a few more cheers from the sidelines of life?