If you build it, they will come.
Updated: Jun 2
I have never loved anything as much as baseball. Of course, I absolutely adore my wife, cherish my dogs, and cling to my extended family. But baseball has always been my one true passion by which I measure any other. My mother reminds me that when I was a little boy, when one of my baseball games would get rained out, I would collapse on my bed crying, still wearing my uniform, begging God to stop the rain so we could play. I craved being out on that field surrounded by all my friends with family and members of the community watching us from the stands. There was nothing better as a kid than running through the grass, kicking the dirt with my spikes, smelling the popcorn from the concession stand, enjoying a huge wad of Big League Chew bubblegum, and hearing the commentary of the crowd when players' names were announced over the crackly PA speaker. This was America’s national pastime during the 80s and all was right with the world.
When my wife and I chose Calvert, Texas as our home, I stumbled upon an abandoned baseball field with a historical marker that signified the birthplace of Andrew "Rube" Foster, the founder of the Negro Baseball League in 1920. While it might have seemed similar to many other neglected fields across the nation, I sensed something special about the place, as if God himself was letting me know that he had a plan to be revealed if we would only have a little bit of faith. I asked around town if anyone knew about the field and was introduced to Miss Bobby Jean Alford, one of the main people responsible for getting the field built years ago. We talked about baseball. We talked about Calvert. We talked and dreamed of a summer filled with hits, runs, fans, and community. We became friends immediately.
It is no secret that Calvert is a historically divided town. One need only drive across it to discover that the main street running through its’ heart remains the line separating black from white. This is the way it has been since the settlement was founded back in 1868. While both sides are mostly cordial to each other, it is a rare occasion when the two demographics come together. This is not unlike many other locations across our great nation. Yet true community is one that stands united. Together we are stronger. Together we are resilient. With a consistently increasing climate of turmoil and dissension as the backdrop across the political and social landscape of our country, perhaps Calvert could be a place where a divided population sets angst aside to come together. Maybe all that it would take is a game of baseball. While that might sound naive, consider that baseball broke the color barrier back in 1947 as Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball, a sport up until that point was restricted to white males.
Breaking the color barrier in baseball took a partnership across the racial divide between Jackie Robinson the athlete and Branch Rickey the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. This was not a situation where one man was the savior and the other a pawn. Both worked with their skills from their unique positions to overcome adversity from their individual perspectives. But it was this equal partnership of trust and respect that sparked a change. Inspired by this premise, Miss Bobby and I have felt called to forge our own partnership. We want the kids to find purpose this summer. We offer them the game of baseball. It just so happens that Miss Bobby is black and lives on one side of town while I am white and live on the other.
We begin with no money. We start only with what we bring to the table. As a leader in the community, Miss Bobby will round up some youth. As a lover of baseball and former collegiate athlete, I bring some charismatic coaching, a few balls, and some bats. Both partners, from different sides of town, come with respect and a listening ear. Neither one of us is more important than the other. We are simply two different people coming together to see if we can inspire a community to play ball.
Kevin Costner, my favorite actor of all time, had the privilege of being in not one but three baseball movies. In Field of Dreams, an incredibly stirring and fantastical emotional drama, his character Ray is prompted to build a baseball field in order to ease the pain of several characters, one being himself. Motivated by a voice that calls to him with subtle purpose, Ray steps out on faith and builds the field. Then he waits with great expectation for something to happen. While neither Miss Bobby nor I have specifically heard a voice, we do understand our calling.
“If you build it, they will come.”