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one to one: angels in the outfield

Keith Burden is the executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Email Keith at


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IT WAS A SURREAL MOMENT. I stood peering through the chain-link backstop as my four-year-old grandson took the field for a tee-ball game. He looked good wearing his red cap, uniform, cleats and black, cowhide leather glove.  It would prove to be a teachable moment—not for him, but for me.

Coaching four and five-year-olds is challenging, requiring extraordinary patience. Some of them have a hard time hitting the ball—even when it’s on a tee.  For most of them, catching and throwing is even more difficult.

They understand only the basics of the game and have short attention spans.  If not for the seven-run-per-inning rule, we might still be there.  As it was, it took over an hour to play three innings (they play as slowly as the guys in the major leagues).

There were many predictable, yet humorous incidents.  For instance, at several points during the game I had to get my grandson’s attention.  He was preoccupied with something just beyond second base.  I couldn’t figure out why he kept digging in the dirt while the other team was at bat.



When he finally pulled a black, plastic object out of the ground I understood. The bases were moved in closer for the tee-ball game.  The object he unearthed was a plug filling the hole where the base had been.  He simply couldn’t leave it alone.

A fellow outfielder, discarded his glove, laid down and wallowed in the dirt.  One young batter took a big swing at the ball, missed and did a 360-degree pirouette, falling flat in the batter’s box.

Later, another batter hit the ball and went scampering down to first base.  When the ball was overthrown, the coach told the lad to “keep running.”  So he did—right down the first-base line toward the outfield!

Although I had a chuckle or two over that ballgame, God used it to remind me of some things as a parent and grandparent...

  • Time flies!  It seems only yesterday I watched my little girls play ball.  Now, I’m watching their children.  We need to make every day count with our family.

  • Don’t take life too seriously.  We can become so focused on “the game” that we miss out on fun experiences like digging or rolling in the dirt.  My grandson had forgotten about the game before we got back home.  Maybe we need shorter memories too.

  • Be an encourager.  I was impressed by the coach.  Every player got a pat on the back and words of praise…whether they struck out or hit a home run.  Your children and grandchildren need positive reinforcement and approval.  Don’t depend on someone else to do it for you.

The images of those cherub-faced kids are forever etched in my memory.  That experience made me a better PaPa.  I’m going to be more diligent to pray for my little angel in the outfield.





©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists