As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
A baserunner takes his lead off first. The pitcher toes the rubber, nods to the catcher – fastball, outside corner. Just before delivering the pitch, he glances at the runner out of the corner of his eye. And again. And again. Hands dangle between the runner’s outstretched legs and his twitchy fingers gently scrape the dirt. The pitcher fires the heater toward home plate. The batter, a lefty, was guessing curve but quickly adjusted to the fastball that caught too much of the plate. The ball cracks off the bat’s barrel and a well-struck one-hopper rips through the infield between the shortstop and second base.
The calm before the pitcher’s delivery is now fabulous chaos. The centerfielder charges the ball violently, intent on keeping the baserunner at second. The shortstop scurries onto the outfield grass to receive a cut-off throw. The second and third basemen man their bags should a play materialize. The left fielder, on his horse, hustles to back up the centerfielder. The pitcher, with no time to lament the failed pitch, moves behind third in the event of an errant throw.
There is great relevancy in that baseball play. It contains order and concurrency of execution without a word spoken. In that moment, how the game’s preceding drama played out for team or individual doesn’t matter. Every player responds to the challenge presented by the batted ball. Retrieve it, get it back to the infield. Hold the batter to a single and the baserunner to second base. And just in case things go awry, backup is positioned to mitigate the damage. They are teammates, united by a singular goal that is performed individually but can only be accomplished collectively.
I have thought about that hypothetical play on the diamond often over the last few years. Of late, it has become an inescapable image during early morning drives. The “play” is the drumbeat of everyday life. The players are numerous. To name a few, they are: convenience store managers who made your coffee and provided gas for vehicles, teachers readying for another day educating our youth, HVAC specialists and plumbers traveling to a jobsite or critical repair, Amazon drivers dutifully meeting the two-day deadline, civil servants headed to the base, the road crew rebuilding critical infrastructure, and law enforcement and medical personal remaining at the ready.
The intersections of these teammates range from rare to frequent. Some names are familiar; others are completely unknown. That said, it is fascinating how this “team” quietly works together every day. It seems, no matter the depth of acquaintance, there is a collective assumption of a commitment to role and to personal duty – an understanding that the “we” needs the “me” and vice versa.
That all these things – the baseball play and the intricacies of daily life – happen without notice is remarkable. During execution, there is little attention paid to political affiliation or vaccine status. Race, religion and gender identity prejudices can be transcended. When that “ball” is smacked through the infield, does the white, Republican pitcher care that an African American Democrat is in centerfield and a fully vaccinated homosexual is playing shortstop? Maybe he does before and after the game. But in that moment of need, with runners racing around the bags and the game on the line, I think not. If he does, hate has compromised his heart; his is a soul lost.
And yet, absent crisis, foolish human failings often compromise pursuit of shared interests. Whatever the root of our differences, the consequences of those fractures just increased in severity. Petty political fights, complaints about our government, wild accusations about certain ideologies ruining the country and internet rage based on targeted lies and false-realities – it seems so trivial now. Russia just changed everything. The peace America and her allies have stridently maintained again requires transcendent unity. A perilous ball has been put into play. European basepaths are chaotic for the first time in nearly 80 years. The situation demands an immediate, coordinated and steadfast defense. Come on world…field it clean, hit the cut-off man, stifle the advance - for each of us, for all of us, for Ukraine.