I wish I had been there to see it -- a deaf baseball team from Gallaudet University in northeast Washington D.C., winning its first game on Friday. Beating Stevenson University 5-3 for its first Capital Athletic Conference victory in 13 years, the team of mostly underclassmen showed you don't have to be able to hear to pull off the improbable on a baseball diamond. The Bison showed guts, tenacity and perseverance.
"It has been a learning process for these guys," Coach Curtis Pride told the Washington Post of a team filled with players still new to highly competitive baseball. "I have seen guys make significant improvement since Day One, and they're starting to understand what it takes to win a ballgame. In other words, they are starting to play like real baseball players."
They are also making clear what I've appreciated for a very long time -- the silent beauty of baseball.
I'm a former youth baseball coach with a thousand stories about the impact that playing the game can make on boys and young men. I know that beauty starts on the diamond. That's where under-skilled players can work hard and get better, building a confidence and sense of self-worth that follows them when they step over the chalk and back into their daily lives.
My favorite baseball memory of all time is about a young outfielder who approached me after practice one day, told me he recognized he was not very good, and asked if I would be willing to put in extra time with him to help him improve to be at least "average." I was stunned by the 11-year-old's candor. We spent tons of time working together and he got better. He even went on to make a game-saving catch against the best hitter in our league.
I'm sure Coach Pride gets to see moments just like that in his thankless work at Gallaudet University. I would have loved to have seen the looks on his and his players' faces when they recorded the final out on Friday.
I hope they get to experience a lot more sunny days like that.
I hope they see all the athletic and life skills they're developing by daring to compete against vastly more experienced foes. I hope they observe the unmistakable beauty of watching their team turn a 6-4-3 double play, nail a runner attempting to steal a base, and execute a sacrifice bunt.
I also hope they appreciate that they're coming together as a team and beginning to operate like a finely tuned machine -- even if they can't hear the engine running.