Boy, although I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read the following story, even now I tear up.
You see, at a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a breathtaking speech:
‘Shay and I had walked past a park where boys Shay knew were playing baseball. He asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ I knew that the boys would not want Shay on their team, but knew that if my son was allowed to play, it would give him a sense of belonging in spite of his handicaps.
I approached one of the boys and asked if Shay could play. The boy said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.’ Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and with a broad smile put on a team shirt.
I watched with a tear in my eye. The boys saw my joy. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was ecstatic just to be on the field, grinning from ear to ear. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again. With two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. Do they let Shay bat and lose their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was impossible because Shay didn’t know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the ball and could have easily thrown it to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have ended of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball over the first baseman’s head.
Everyone in the stands started yelling, ‘Shay, run to first!’ Never in his life had Shay ever run that far but he made it to first base. Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded second base, the right fielder could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but understood the pitcher’s intentions so he too intentionally threw the ball far over the third-baseman’s head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, ‘All the Way Shay!
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base and shouted, ‘Run to third! Shay!’ As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and the spectators were on their feet screaming, ‘Shay, run home!’ Shay ran home, stepped on the plate and was cheered as the hero who won the game for his team.
‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, ‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world’. Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy seeing his mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!”
Hats off to those who bring a bit of love and humanity to today’s tumultuous times.
Run Shay, run! We’ll soon join you at home plate.
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