Updated: Sep 28
The evening was particularly chilly, even for September in Atlanta. The shouts of fans were visible in the night air, like an early morning mist rolling across a still, cool lake. Welcome to baseball in the fall.
While I don’t remember much about the game itself, I will never forget the excitement and fascination that consumed my young daughter’s face. Like a sponge, she soaked up everything and everyone around her. The cry of the cotton candy vendor, the dazzle of the scoreboard, fans cheering for a base hit; each was a new and magical experience.
At one point in the game, a visiting outfielder sprinted to catch a fly ball along the warning track. The ball glanced over the top of his outstretched glove as his body violently impacted the wall, knocking his cap to the turf. Rather than cheering the extra base hit, my sweet 5-year-old, doubtlessly channeling her mother, was more concerned that he would forget to pick up his hat after throwing the ball back to the infielder. She was missing the point of the game, but her concern for the outfielder and his hat was precious.
After the third out of the ninth inning, Abigail and I left our seats under the glare of the stadium lights; the sound of peanut shells and empty drink cups crunching beneath our feet. Outside the confines of the ballpark, we enjoyed a twenty-minute walk to the car, holding hands and talking. As we picked our way through the scattering crowd, we passed a disheveled man rattling an old stadium drink cup. He held a sign indicating that he was looking for spare change to help buy new tires for his wheelchair. Without thinking much about it, I reached into my pocket, grabbed a bit of change left over from our evening, and in silence, I dropped it into a cup as ragged and frayed as the one who held it.
We continued our journey for about another block when Abigail gently tugged my arm. With her curious eyes looking up at me, she asked, “Daddy, who was that?”
It was a question that I had never thought to ask.
I had done my part.
I responded to his sign.
I added to the change in his cup.
My daughter never saw his cup. She saw the one who rattled it. I was the one who had missed the point.