Let me apologize in advance for the wordiness and no pics, but I had to share this.
I never imagined I would be so inspired when I went to my nephew's baseball banquet last night. You see, I was a last minute substitution as Mom wasn't feeling very well. I scrambled to get ready on time, then we got caught by two trains en route and arrived late.
It was a typical South Side affair with decent food, a horrible DJ, whiny sound system and over-priced drinks. We were seated all the way in the back, of course, but hey, it was near the bar. Turned out we had some pretty good table company, too, a teammate of Cameron's, his family and one of the coaches from another team and his little boy. We had a few laughs over dinner, joking that our rather skeletal looking waiter was really a vampire. Finally, the time for trophy presentations came and it was I'm-aging-fifty-years-just-sitting-here long. We could hear about a third of what was being said because the kids were making so much noise. Then came the announcement of something called the Chad Award and silence fell.
Oscar, the manager of the first place team took the mic and started talking about this kid, Chad, he had coached. How this boy loved baseball and was always the first out and the last to leave the field. He lived for the game and could be found at the fields even when he wasn't playing. He was also a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs, which is a rarity on the South Side as this is hardcore White Sox country. The remarkable thing is Chad did all of this in spite being stricken with cancer. Through chemo, hospitalizations and various doctor visits, Chad continued to play. He showed up in pain, exhausted and cheered his team whenever he wasn't strong enough to get on the field. One day, after a particularly rough chemo treatment, he came and asked his coach to play. Oscar asked him if he was sure, then looked at Chad's mom, who nodded. Chad played and was so tired by the time the game ended, his mom had to carry him to the car from the dugout. The following morning, she called Oscar with the sad news that Chad had passed away that night. He had given his all for one last game.
I was trying not to cry by this point, then they introduced the winner of the Chad Award, a kid named Justin. This award is given in Chad's honor to the 12 year old who best exemplifies the spirit of baseball and sportsmanship. I have to tell you, Justin blew me away. Like Chad, he's there everyday whether his team is playing or not, cheering the kids on. One time, though, Justin and his team were playing a squad that was clearly not their equal. On that day a young boy named John came to the mound as a pitching substitution. John is slightly behind his peers developmentally and while he plays, he's not very good. In fact, he gets made fun of a lot. He's the worst pitcher on his team. Justin, on the other hand is a pretty good player. During this game, there was only one more out needed to end the inning and John's teammates were getting irritated that he couldn't find the strike zone as usual. Justin stepped to the plate and proceeded to take three swings, striking out. The pitches were so bad all Justin had to do was wait for four balls and he'd be on base, but he chose to take those swings and give John his first ever strike out. Justin's teammates were less than pleased, but he knew that John needed that strikeout far more than he needed another hit.
The depth of character of both of these boys left me stunned to say the least. There was not one adult there who was not blinking rapidly and wiping a tear. I've talked about being inspired by Olympians, but last night I found a great deal to be inspired by close to home.
What are some inspiring stories you've heard? What was the most unexpected source of inspiration for you?