This I Believe

Michael - Swansea, Massachusetts
Entered on February 7, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: illness

Playing a Game of Catch

Playing catch with a baseball has always been one of my favorite things to do. My mom taught me to play catch. Once I got the hang of it, I could barely wait for my Dad to come home from work so we could play.

I loved the feeling of throwing a baseball and the sound of the ball popping into the mitt — it’s part of summer; my favorite season.

I’d play catch with my brothers; driving them crazy – wanting to play every day. While we played catch we would talk about all kinds of things – baseball of course, but other things – like school, friends, and life.

Catch strengthened our arms. A professional baseball scout told me: arm strength comes from lots of games of catch. Major league pitchers played lots of catch as kids. That’s why they can throw the ball 90 miles per hour. Catch also strengthens relationships because as you play catch, you talk.

I always played catch with my children, just like I did with my Dad. All four of my kids developed strong throwing arms but more importantly, catch made us closer. Catch builds relationships.

It’s so simple but beautiful; just back and forth. There’s a certain peace and contentment that comes from a game of catch. There’s a connection that’s made between the people who are playing. In a way, it’s an expression of love. I once said that I hope you can play catch in heaven. I can’t imagine paradise without it.

In April 2006, while playing catch with two of my children, I had angina. I was only 47 years old at the time and had no indication of heart disease. I thought maybe I had pulled a muscle. After a series of tests, I was shocked to learn that I had a heart attack. I underwent angioplasty and had three stents implanted to open my left anterior descending artery (LAD) which had become seriously blocked, causing the heart attack.

During my recovery, I thought how ironic it was that I was stricken while playing catch – one of my favorite things.

My 10 year old son Trevor was told me he thought he had caused my heart attack. He thought that had he not asked to play, I wouldn’t have become stricken. Far from true, he saved my life. The stress test that was our game of catch helped me avoid a much serious heart attack. I told Trevor that playing catch is part of me; a big part of who I am. How great it was that catch saved my life.

After twelve weeks of a cardiac rehab program and I was feeling pretty good. And I was back playing catch. At times wondered if as I threw a baseball I would feel something in my chest; perhaps angina again. That’s common for folks that have had a heart attack. It gets in your head.

But as I got stronger and felt better, I wanted to play catch often. I wanted to have the feeling that comes from the back and forth fun of a game of catch. I wanted to feel the sun on my face and hear the ball pop into the baseball mitts. And the first person I played with was Trevor. It was like heaven.