I watched some old guys play baseball a couple Saturdays ago. It was a beautiful sunny day, clear skies and easy breezes as I sat on the bleachers and watched and listened, partly for the enjoyment of the game and being outdoors; and partly wearing my anthropologist hat. People watching is great fun.
The players were all over the age of 45 as this was the 45+ senior men’s community baseball club. Most of them had been lovers of the game from childhood having played since their own little league days. Another spectator was sitting near me on the bleachers. He was 52 years old and his 15 year old son sat next to him. The dad bragged about his son’s baseball achievements. The boy sat quietly. His father had been invited to play for one of the teams we were watching that day.
The players began by buttoning and lacing up, stretching, throwing balls, catching, swinging bats, and jogging around the bases. A few of them un-wrapped pink bubble gum and stuck it into their mouths. Chewing gum was apparently part of the baseball ritual. I smiled as I overheard one of the guys tell another player about one of his teammates, “he’s 60 years old and can run those bases really well.” “I just had knee replacement surgery man; we’ll see how it goes.”
As the aging weekend warriors played I noticed they did things for each other. When one of the older men was tired and didn’t feel he could run the bases, another player who wasn’t as tired ran for him. The old guy would swing his bat, hit the ball and the slightly younger or less tired teammate ran the bases in his place. Several complained of cramps or aches but they helped each other out.
Watching this game gave practical meaning to bible verses about being strong when another is weak, and accepting strength from our friend when we ourselves are weak. It also reminded me of ways a body works together and compensates for members who may be struggling at any given time. Sometimes we need a sister or brother to run for us because we’re just too tired to do it ourselves. We drop our ball and rest for a while, and stand up to bat again when our energy is replenished. There was lots of good embodied theology on that baseball field of aging weekend warriors.