There are events in a child’s life that can truly define his camp experience. This morning, I witnessed one of these events. Our 15-and-under baseball team took the field to host a neighboring camp in their final inter-camp baseball game of this season. Many of our 15-year-old boys have been playing together since they were little Warriors on our smallest fields. Their relationships have developed into deep friendships– a trust and bond that could only form from sharing countless moments together in a camp setting.
Trust is formed in so many ways. It could be a subtle wink or nod to let your friend know you have their back or as overt as stepping in and performing an act of kindness. These campers share their meals and laughs together around the dining room table. They sit together at line-up and stay up into the late hours of the evening recounting funny stories that took place during the course of the day. Our Senior boys entered Takajo as a bunch of individuals but are now a cohesive unit enveloping every experience that comes their way.
During the first inning of the baseball game, two power hitters from the opposing team hit towering home runs. One went over our left field fence onto our basketball court and another over the right field fence onto the tennis court. The cheers and excitement erupted from our visitor’s bench, but our young men composed themselves and never gave up. Our coach went out onto the field and summoned our long, lean right-hander to step onto the mound. With the poise and confidence of a major leaguer, our six-footer gave his teammates a renewed sense of purpose and hope. It was fascinating for me to watch the communication that took place on the baseball field. It was not the verbal communication one would expect, but the wink, the nod, the tip of the cap, the thumbs up hand gesture, and the baseball glove over the heart. As each inning passed, the boys dug in and made incredible defensive plays to end rallies.
Our bats came alive, and our players were aggressive on the bases. Nevertheless, in the bottom of the seventh inning, Takajo was trailing by a score of 8 to 4. At camp, they constantly hear the message, “Never give up, never give up.” At the bottom of the seventh, their heads were held high, and they were prepared to fight until the final out. We started a rally and loaded the bases– a walk, a single, aggressive base running, and before we knew it, we were trailing by only one run, 8 to 7.
While we had runners on second and third bases, there were two outs. Stepping into the batter’s box was our tall right-hander, the same player who came in to assume pitching duties a few innings before in relief. He was now at the plate with the game on the line. He battled the opposing pitcher until the count was full, 3 and 2. As the pitcher hurled a fast ball straight over the plate, our right-hander ripped a shot between first and second bases making it easy for our runner on third to score. Knowing the game was precariously positioned, our man on second ran with urgency and purpose, rounded third, making his way home for the winning run. As he crossed home plate, the stands erupted and could be heard throughout the entire campus. In heroic fashion, the boys came from behind and won their final baseball game on the Takajo diamond.
For our 15-year-olds, this game was a thrill of a lifetime, but for me, this experience represents so much more than just a dramatic win. These young men have grown up, laughed, and cried together. They have had their share of victories and losses, but the trust and respect they have for one another is far more valuable than today’s victory.