Randy was at a Little League game, watching his nephew play. Only, he was not paying attention to his nephew. He was watching the dugout.
A boy warmed the bench. He was all alone.
Maybe it was the way the kid held his head that made Randy feel so bad. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they hold their head. The kid sort of drooped his chin.
The game was in the eighth inning. The boy wore his uniform, it was spotless, no dirt. He sat beside the water cooler. Head down.
Randy made his way to the dugout and introduced himself. Randy asked why he wasn’t playing on the field.
“‘Cause,” the boy said. “I ain’t no good at baseball.”
“Don’t say ‘ain’t,’” Randy said. “It ain’t proper.”
This was a course of habit. For Randy’s whole life, his mother had corrected him for using the word “ain’t.”
“Aren’t,” Randy suggested. “Say ‘aren’t‘ instead.”
“Aren’t?” the boy said. “I AREN’T no good at baseball? That ain’t right.”
Randy had to think long and hard. He couldn’t find the right word to say in place of “ain’t.”
The boy looked at Randy like the man’s wheel was spinning but the hamster was dead.
“Well,” said Randy. “It ain’t a real word, so don’t say ‘ain’t.’”
And so it went.
Randy told the kid his life story. It wasn’t a long tale, but it was a sad one. His father walked out on his mother when he was five. He had to grow up on his own, his mother worked two jobs.
The boy had a similar story. He was alone in this world, warming a bench.
But nobody needs to hear a hard luck story when they have one of their own. So Randy offered to help the kid improve at baseball. He said he’d teach the kid to field and to bat.
“Don’t bother,” said the kid. “I ain’t no good at baseball.”
“I told you,” Randy said. “Don’t say that word. Besides, how do you know you AREN’T any good if you ain’t gonna at least try?”
Randy was no athlete. In fact, he was a house painter who dangled from two-story ladders, operating commercial paint sprayers for a living.
So he enlisted the help of his brother-in-law, who once played college ball. And his neighbor, a retired P.E. coach.
Thus, on Mondays and Fridays, Randy would get off work and swing by the park with one brother-in-law, and one retired P.E. coach.
For one hour, three grown men would teach a twelve-year-old how to play the game. They cheered for him. They taught him how to wear his hat backwards, and how to make noises with his armpits.
Sadly, the kid did not improve. Nothing changed after two weeks. He still warmed benches at games, he still hung his head.
One day, Randy had an idea. He suggested the kid try pitching.
They taught the kid to wind up, how to hold the ball with split fingers, and how to deliver.
The first pitch smacked into Randy’s glove and made a loud noise.
“My God!” shouted Randy’s brother-in-law. “We got a real pitcher on our hands!”
And that was that.
After a few years, the boy pitched his way through high school. He was attracting more than just local attention at his games.
Out-of-town visitors came to see him. These were the kinds of visitors who held infrared guns pointed at the mound, and notepads in their laps. Scouts. And with each pitch, the scouts had to check their guns to make sure they weren’t broken.
And that’s how it happened. That’s how Randy, a stranger in paint-stained clothes became friends with another stranger. He wasn’t kin to the boy, but he was proud of him, and he rarely missed games.
That was 23 years ago.
Yesterday, Randy opened a newspaper to see a familiar name in the back of the local announcements. A man is getting married.
A man who attended college on a baseball scholarship. A boy who earned his degree in education, who sometimes helps conduct clinics for Little League teams.
Randy still paints houses. And he still has a knack for making kids smile—he has two of his own now.
He doubts the boy even remembers him after all these years. But take it from a boy who’s been there, there’s no way a child without a father ever forgets the first person who believed in him.
There just ain’t no way.
Elizabeth Edens - March 18, 2019 10:40 am
Penn Wells - March 18, 2019 11:21 am
No question about it. You never forget.
Karen - March 18, 2019 12:28 pm
Thank you for helping us to see the goodness in the world each day. We don’t just love you. We need you.
Diana Knowles - April 15, 2019 10:28 am
Well said. Keep writing and we will keep reading. You not only write touching stories but you also give us hope.
BJean - March 18, 2019 12:33 pm
Funny how you just cut through the peripheral things of life to note what is the meat of the matter. So many people miss these things. Thank you for preserving a gem of a story, worth being told. ?
MJ - March 18, 2019 1:04 pm
I grew up in foster care homes and then became a foster parent. I was able to relate and reach these children on their level. Thank you for your story.
sparkerlpc - March 18, 2019 1:11 pm
Thanks for this reminder to look for people to care about and help. There AIN’T anything more important!
Shannon Shelton Brown - March 18, 2019 1:37 pm
Even we ladies (women, females, girls) can identify with the characters in today’s story. For me, I need a box of Kleenex after reading. Thank you for reminding your readers of what matters in life!
Lori Brown - March 18, 2019 1:50 pm
You brighten each day for me and help me see the good in people that I might have overlooked. I am looking forward to meeting you and your wife in August in our sweet little town of Auburn, KY!
Ruth - March 18, 2019 2:03 pm
Beautiful story in every story, BUT surely the young man invited Randy to the wedding??? !!!!
Pat - March 18, 2019 2:11 pm
Charaleen Wright - March 18, 2019 2:25 pm
jim heywood - March 18, 2019 3:21 pm
home run!!! touch ’em all
Carolyn Allen - March 18, 2019 4:15 pm
Thank God for people like Randy who can not only see the deep need in a lonely boy but is unselfish enough to do something about it. A very good story Sean….very good.
Jack Darnell - March 18, 2019 4:56 pm
Ah ha! like many others, this one is a winner too! Love the story one of your best that is for sure.
Sherry & jack
Pat Thomason - March 18, 2019 5:09 pm
I sure hope Randy, his brother-in-law, and the P.E. teacher friend still keep in touch with that boy-now-turned man. We all need help to make it in this world. Thanks for the reminder, Sean.
Debbie Britt - March 18, 2019 5:40 pm
And I’d be surprised if that young man getting married didn’t invite the painter to his wedding! It’s a crying shame if he doesn’t, ain’t it?!
Linda Moon - March 18, 2019 6:21 pm
I believe in YOU, and I’m sure I’m not the first one who ever did!
Carol Heidbreder - March 18, 2019 6:30 pm
Oh my goodness! Left me with that big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes! A beautiful story and a great reminder to us to not get so self immersed that we miss, really MISS those around us. Thank you for such a moving story!
Jackie - March 18, 2019 9:08 pm
Sean, you sure know how to tell a story! It’s like I can see the little guy sitting on the bench with his head hanging down. Just because somebody took the time to care about him and pay attention to him — his life changed. I love to read everything you write.
Shelton A. - March 18, 2019 10:34 pm
A boy’s life changes and so changes the one who helped lead the boy. Good on Randy-he’ll be a great dad.
Tim House - March 18, 2019 11:58 pm
Jones - March 19, 2019 1:00 am
Carol Dolan-Groebe - March 19, 2019 1:47 pm
There once was a boy who said “ain’t”. He fell into a bucket of red paint. He couldn’t get out until he promised to say “isn’t or aren’t”, not “ain’t”!
The things we remember from childhood!
Edy - March 19, 2019 3:55 pm
Our ordinary lives rarely draw attention, but the Lord sees, and that is what matters.
Betty Gayle Giles Dunn - March 19, 2019 9:19 pm
WOW! What a heart warming story. You have such a God given talent expressing your thoughts and emotions and putting them into words that encourage and teach the young and the old. Your dad would be so proud of you because you look and find the good in everyone!! I am proud to know you, too!
Janet Mary Lee - March 21, 2019 5:36 pm
Home run on all levels!!
LJ Jackson - March 22, 2019 6:24 pm
Excellent story! Thank you! Here’s a fun one: Curt Schilling rocked our tiny town – hope you enjoy this story. My husband (Kevin) became good friends with Curt as a daily caller to his radio program on Breitbart Radio — then the hurricanes came in 2017 & they are friends for life now. http://thecountyrecord.net/archives/6215-Locals-offer-relief-help-for-pitching-legend-Curt-Schilling.html
Gale Smith - April 15, 2019 8:55 am
Ain’t it the truth!
Debbie - April 15, 2019 9:20 am
Knocked it right outta the park. Kleenex
Patricia - April 15, 2019 11:33 am
That warmed my heart. Thank you Sean.
Julia Hornsby - April 15, 2019 1:12 pm
Such an awesome story!!! Love all of your stories! Start my day with you every day!!! Ain’t life good!!!
Donna - April 15, 2019 1:43 pm
Laura Leeds - April 16, 2019 1:36 pm
Sometimes it just takes a little patience to help a child who needs the attention, help, understanding and love. Thank you for the story. Even though I grew up with both parents who taught us kids alot, I remember some who just ran the streets unsupervised because the single parent was always working so much like this story.
Bonnie McKechnie - April 17, 2019 7:11 pm
Good bumps even on my legs. Never had goose bumps on my legs before .mckech