A sacrifice drive

Posted 6/16/21

Growing up, my younger brother and I both played baseball. Since my brother moved to New York City more than a decade ago, my father and I have tried to meet him every summer at a different ballpark …

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A sacrifice drive

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Growing up, my younger brother and I both played baseball. Since my brother moved to New York City more than a decade ago, my father and I have tried to meet him every summer at a different ballpark to watch a major league game. Over the years, the three of us have seen some great ones: A one-hitter pitched in Philadelphia. A ninth-inning rally in Cleveland. We have watched future Hall of Famers like Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones.

But the most memorable moments have been the adventures we shared when our best-laid plans went awry: The rain delay in Chicago. The time the Metro was shut down in Washington. The midnight fire alarm in the hotel.

We have not traveled in the past couple of years due to the births of our children and COVID-19. This summer, my brother visited our parents in Raleigh. We were excited to watch a baseball team much closer to home — the Durham Bulls. While minor league, the Bulls currently boast the No. 1 prospect in baseball, a 20-year-old power-hitting, slick-fielding shortstop named Wander Franco.

My brother carpooled with our father to the game while I drove from my home in Chatham County. They texted me while I was still heading north on U.S. Hwy. 15-501. They were already in their seats! I zipped into a parking space and hustled around the car to pay the parking meter. Stuffing the receipt in my pocket, I had a moment of confusion: Where were my keys?

Then, my heart sank.

I sprinted back to my car and saw my keys lying in the driver’s seat. All the doors were locked. I could hear the national anthem playing in the stadium behind me. What was I going to do?

I did have my cell phone. I texted my brother first. Next, I called a roadside assistance company and was directed to an online request form. I texted my brother again. I hoped I wouldn’t miss too much of the game.

He immediately called with a different idea. Come inside the ballpark. After a few innings, he and Dad would drive me to my house, then back to my car with the spare key.

Though we faced a long drive to my house and back, we wanted to stay long enough to watch Franco for a couple of at-bats. The young superstar did not disappoint. On his second trip to the plate, he smashed a home run over the centerfield fence!

The next time Franco came up to the plate, there were runners on second and third and no outs. Baseball fans know that a simple fly ball to the outfield will score the run. Though the hitter makes an out, it helps the team. For this reason, it’s called a sacrifice fly.

But Franco swung for the fences again and tapped the ball weakly to third base. No runs scored.

While certainly a major league talent, Franco is still young. As part of his maturation, he must learn that sacrifice is the heart of this team game.

While I will remember locking my keys in the car, the memory I hold dear is of riding in the back seat of Dad’s car, my brother driving through the night, and all three of us laughing. No one complained even once. Though I rarely made sacrifices for other people when I was a young adult, I’ve learned over the years that love is sacrifice.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His forthcoming book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”


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