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Our National Pastime

The summer of my 9th year on this earth my father took me to heaven.

Or Iowa.

Growing up in Northern Indiana basketball was always my favorite sport by birth. But deep down inside, I found my greatest joy and fulfillment in life when I was on the baseball diamond with a glove on my hand. I don’t remember how old I was the first time I watched Kevin Costner’s “Field of Dreams” but I’ll say it this way – I don’t remember life prior to that film. Back then my grandmother lived in Madison, Wisconsin – it wasn’t a long drive over to one of baseball’s holy grails: the cornfields of Dyersville, Iowa and Field of Dreams.I wore my team jersey and hat. Laced up my spikes and sprinted to the corn – so I could take the field like one of the ghosts of the game. I got to run the bases, take batting practice and even shag fly balls in left field as if I was Shoeless Joe Jackson himself. On that day, I wasn’t living out a childhood dream that passed me by in my youth, I was living it with my dad. My dad and I “had a catch” in baseball heaven.

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This last January I traveled to LaGonave, Haiti to help film and scout for this next seasons drilling expedition. Each time I land on the island my mind switches into a different mode. I become very focused, quiet and task-oriented. I force myself to this mental state for a few reasons: 1 – you never know what could go wrong and when – so it’s always best to slow things down and think through every step of what you’re doing to avoid any mis-steps. 2 – I’m on the island to do a job that will in turn make the greater job (drilling water wells) accomplishable by the drilling team. If I don’t do my job – their job becomes that much harder or impossible. I’ll write in more detail about this trip and my experiences later this year, but the thought that I want to share with you today came to me on our last day on the island. On this day we traveled to one of the many feeding stations we’ve established on the island. As I mounted my camera and began filming a group of small boys eating, I became very overwhelmed emotionally. This was my first trip to LaGonave since my son Easton was born. Easton is not much older than the boys I saw in front of me, naked, crying and hungry. No parents, no clothes and save the grace of God and the good people of Guts Church – they wouldn’t even have the one meal that they were eating on that day. I tabled my emotions, focused on my camera and filmed the feeding station.

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Screenshot 2014-04-17 10.41.50As I laid my seat back on the plane ride home to Miami, I pulled out my headphones and iPad and pushed play. I fast forwarded to the first of my two favorite scenes: when Shoeless Joe Jackson emerges from the corn for the very first time and introduces himself to Ray Kinsella. As I watched my mind wandered back to that feeding station and the boys covered in dirt. They weren’t dirty because they wanted to be. They weren’t naked because they thought it would be funny to take of their clothes and diaper and run away from their dad, laughing and falling like my son Easton does every night before bedtime. They didn’t choose this life. No one would. Yet there they are and here I am. In that moment, on that plane, I made a connection between LaGonave and the truth of our national pastime. It’s not the sound that the ball makes when it hits the bat. It’s not the thrill of the grass or the smell of the ballpark in your nose. It’s fathers and sons. It’s about time honored tradition and playing the game (life) the right way. There’s honor in that.

I never choose to go to Haiti. Truth be told, I’ve never once desired to go. But I believe – deep down – that I was put on this earth to achieve something greater than anything I could accomplish on my own. I am a part of a team. We wear the same jersey and have the same goals. And this goal is honorable. In my lifetime I will see the boys at that feeding station on the island grow up and become men who have sons of their own.  And when they do – because of our efforts as a team – they will have grown up knowing what it’s like to have life with food, water, a church, a clinic and basic economic development. And maybe one day, I’ll have a game of catch with them. If only just to share in our national pastime together; helping men live their greatest dreams, thus feeling like little boys all over again.

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