The underdogs, tagged as talented kids, but as a team, just average. Somehow, though, it was gonna work out in the 12-year-old District 16 Little League playoffs. Or so we hoped. We had always been serious in our work and preparation, but all the other years, the sum of all our parts was always less than the other team, always having to depend on individual instead of the team. In baseball terms, we were the losers.
Our coaches worked hard to try and change that too! It started with us having two two-hour practices a day, for three straight weeks. I’m not sure who had the bigger commitment: the players or the moms that had to do laundry each day. I always wore the same shirt to practice, and by the end of all our practices, my shirt smelled like Febreze.
Soon enough it was time for us to have our first game, and the mood was tense. Before we stepped on the field, we agreed that all the practices endured in the 100+ degree heat and suffocating humidity were gonna be worth it, and that this was our year. The team fought hard for all those games and, in the end, came out strong. It wasn’t easy though, as the team was greatly tested as a group,. After walk-off home runs, stellar defense, and brilliant pitching, the team was poised to play the previous years’ champion in the semi-final. We all could feel that some magic was in the air.
I was lucky enough to pitch that game, and after some warm-ups, it was game time. It was a little eerie, pitching against another team that matched up with us toe for toe, but they had experience on their side. It was a hard fought game, but after six innings, the game was in the books…
We had toppled Goliath.
And now we were set to play in the championship, against the same team nonetheless, thirsty for revenge.
The mood was tense… and then…
We were the Houston champions. We were on top of the world. And to this day, I have never been happier in my entire life than I was then.
When we were on top of the world looking down, I realized how we got there. It was subtle, but something about us as players had changed. We were no longer players.
We were a team.
And then it dawned on me how the whole was greater than the sum of the parts; this I believe. That was the magic we felt whenever we took the field with each other, that brotherly bond. (People reading or hearing this may think that’s a cliché, but it was true.)
Every now and then, when I quickly grab a t-shirt on my way out the door, I grab one particular shirt. It smells like Febreze. And that always brings me back to the summer where dreams truly did come true.