At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with disabilities, a father of a student delivered this powerful story.
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball.
Shay asked, “Do you think they’ll let me play?” I knew that most youngsters would not want someone like Shay on their team. However, as a father, I also understood that if they allowed my son to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging despite his disabilities.
I approached one boy and asked if Shay could play. He said, “We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. He can be on our team and we’ll let him bat in the ninth.”
Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye. The boys noticed my joy when they accepted my son.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored three runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Although no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, the potential winning run was scheduled to bat. I wondered whether they would still let Shay bat and give away their chance of winning the game. Surprisingly, they gave Shay the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly.
Shay stepped up to the plate. The pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting their winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball so Shay could make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.
The pitcher again moved forward to lob the ball toward Shay. Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball back to the pitcher. He picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and the game would have been over.
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all his teammates. Everyone in the stands and both teams started yelling, “Shay, run to first! Run to first!” Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second!” Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran toward second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded second base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he intentionally threw the ball high over the third-baseman’s head.
Shay ran toward third base as the runners ahead of him crossed home plate. Everyone was screaming, “Shay, Shay, all the way.” 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!”
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and the spectators were on their feet screaming, “Shay, run home! Run home!” Shay ran to 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.”
A wise person once said, “Every society is judged by how it treats it’s least fortunate amongst them.” How do you treat the least fortunate?