Behind a filling station. Middle of Nowhere, Georgia.
The kid was Master of the Mound. He stood on a pitching mound, throwing to his friend who wore a catcher’s mask. There was another holding a bat.
The first baseman shouted, “C’mon, throw the cutter!”
The kid pitched a ball so fast you only heard the smack of the catcher’s mitt.
The onlookers who watched the game were old men. They stood with hands in pockets, some with full lower lips. Spitting.
“He’s got scouts looking at him,” said one old man.
“He could be famous one day,” said another.
“He could be a major leaguer maybe.”
Baseball is poetry to watch. And this kid is a poet.
He is tall. Black. Wiry. He has long, powerful arms. And he has a story. The boy was found in a walk-in closet in a vacant house.
His biological mother left him there, wrapped in an old flannel shirt when he was a toddler. A few days after they found him, they found her at a house down the street. Expired.
“Drugs,” said the old man, who told the story. “Both his mama and daddy.”
The kid winds up. There’s the pitch. Smack. Strike three.
The old men applaud.
This is only a friendly game between local kids. We are approaching the end of summer. School has started.
It makes me feel good to know that kids still play baseball in rural parts of the world.
The child—who looks like a man—was adopted by a local youth minister and his wife. I’ll call them the Wilsons, even though that’s not their name.
The Wilson’s had four kids when they heard about the boy, they would not let him become part of the foster pinball machine.
Pastor Wilson adopted him.
But life isn’t a storybook. It wasn’t a happily ever after ending. It was only the beginning.
It’s been had work. The kid started to act out. He became angry when he was a grade-schooler. Nobody understood it. It got worse with each year. A bitterness ran deep in him.
“It was almost like he KNEW he’d been abandoned,” Pastor Wilson told me.
The pastor is no longer a youth minister, but pastor of his own congregation—and an air conditioner repairman, and a satellite dish installer.
“He was just so mad at the world,” the pastor went on. “I couldn’t get through to him, no matter what I did.”
So, the young minister tried something new. He had lettered in baseball long ago. He took the boy into the backyard and taught him to throw.
The kid was seven.
The pastor laughs. “He is a talent. He learned how to throw my breakaway curve ball when he was eight. I couldn’t believe it.”
The kid got better and better. Little League was a snap. He could play every position, and bat like a kid with his hair on fire.
And by the time he hit a growth spurt during middle school, something changed inside him. Seventh grade was his year.
“He just got so mellow,” said the pastor. “His anger was gone, and it was like he finally realized that we weren’t going anywhere, and even though our skin isn’t the same color, he knows we’re family.”
He won games hand over fist. People came from all over just to watch him pitch. During his sophomore year, a professional scout was in the bleachers.
“I was so proud,” said the pastor. “He’s my own flesh and blood.”
The game ended. The children left the field with their gloves resting on their heads, guzzling Gatorade bottles.
The pitcher left the mound. He’s all legs. He has a bright future before him, anyone can see that. He is Mister Baseball, wrapped in good looks, and athleticism.
But the chances of him pitching professionally are slim to none. I know this because I got it straight from his mouth.
I asked where the kid saw himself in the next five years.
“Aw, I don’t wanna play baseball,” he said. “I mean, it’s fun and everything, but I wanna help people.”
He hugged his father—the young minster who isn’t so young anymore. He has faded hair, and aged skin. The man was all smiles.
“I’m gonna be a minister, like my dad,” the boy said.