Sunday, June 4, 2017


"I have to stay to the end; I have come this far."

I look over at Doug Costain, who sits three or four seats to my right on the front row just down from first base at Appalachian Power Park, identical seats we had in June of 2016 for the West Virginia State High School Championship baseball games. We are both there early enough to watch our favorite Maroon Knights (his son Chris being his favorite) take the field for warm-ups, both snapping pictures of the players, both doing our best to capture the moment, the end of a story that has been told for over a year.

As the players throw around the baseballs, I toss out an observation, not a stray one but one with an understanding and sentiment I am sure we both comprehend. "Gosh, Doug. It seems as if we were just here a few months ago - (long pause) - Time sure flies..." I stop short of the traditional end of that phrase "when you're having fun" which just does not seem to work here. Not today at least. 

Dedication. A word with multiple layers of meaning and perspective that permeated so much of our lives since last June. Dedication to the memory of a lost coach. Dedication to tradition. Dedication to school. Dedication to God. Dedication to family. Dedication to the human spirit. Dedication to doing what needed to be done to have an opportunity for magic. This season, this year had been for him. A dedication.

Bottom of the seventh inning. 
Central is down 2-0. 
One out. 
Second out. 
One base hit.
Another hit. 
An error. 
Another base hit. 
Bases loaded. 
One hit. 
One catch. 
Third and final out. 
Game over. 
That's it. 

It is a scenario that has probably unfolded numerous times over countless decades. However, each scenario has its own backstory, its own frame of reference, making it personally relevant and soul-cutting to all participants and spectators.

I go from elation to numbness as Tyler's hit flies hard between first and second base only to be caught by a player I never see, a player no one seems to see there. A catch that ends the game, a catch that ends a year-long quest, a catch that causes most of us to sigh and listen to the silence. What now?

We all wait. Friends, teachers, alumni, and family. We all wait to greet our team as they slowly make their way from the dugout. We all struggle with the words, careful to recognize the gravity of this moment, wondering if there is any possible way to make this better. We all understand what needs to be said: "I am so sorry about the way this ended," "I could not be more proud of you for everything you did this season," "I love you." Some players readily accept the comfort, others quickly find their way to the bus, others fall into a long embrace in the arms of a parent. Dedication takes its toll.

The crowd eventually makes its way back to the hotel to commiserate and even celebrate together. It is a mixture of emotions, people realizing that this one game does not tell the entire story we have all watched unfold. Many people take to Facebook to make their own poignant observations about the season, the year, and even the freshman to senior odyssey many of them have traveled. Heather Rine proudly posts pictures of her son Isaac on Facebook while she writes in her own insightful manner, "we've watched Isaac play for the last time as a Maroon Knight. We may have lost, but we have gained more than I wish to mention." Perfect, Heather. Yes, perfect. 💗

Heather's philosophical husband Jason goes the direct route, explaining to the gathering throng in the lobby that "everyone wants a Hollywood ending but 99.9 percent of the stories don't end that way." Jason's correct as well. Sometimes we expect our stories to have that Hollywood ending, unrealistically making everything right in the world. In this case, Tyler's ball flies over the player's head and the Knights score three runs to win in the bottom of the seventh, sending the team to the championship where they win, celebrating a long emotional season with a state championship hoisted high in the air in honor of their former coach. Honestly, after Jason says this, I end up contemplating his words later that evening then on into the next morning when I wake up to walk around the streets of Charleston still catching my breath the next day from everything that has transpired. I think Jason may have been making another point.

What if this actually were the Hollywood moment for the story we just witnessed? 

Look, I know I am nowhere near to being a baseball guru and cannot come close to seeing the subtleties of the game that so many other people can. Ask anyone who has sat near me during a game. I do understand that leaving three people stranded on base at the end of any inning, more importantly the bottom of the seventh inning, is not cause for celebration, but we must consider the backstory, the frame of reference beyond what we see through the statistics or the play-by-play.

While this season was a dedication to a lost coach, it was also a dedication to the human spirit and that which stokes the flames of inspiration. Rather than looking at three young men left stranded on base, look at them as three young men, representatives of this courageous team who dedicated this year to their coach who died fighting a protracted battle with cancer; look at their dedication to finishing what they started, digging deep for some way to play just one more game; look at them as passionate individuals who were so involved in life and doing what they believed as right, doing it as a team, honoring a vow they made to each other; and, of course, look at the entire team, coaching staff, families, and friends, then ask yourself if Jamey was not looking down and smiling, proud of them, of us, for keeping the faith regardless of the ending no one wanted.

The next day, during a smaller group gathering, Isaac Basinger's mother Amy shows me a picture of this painted wooden plaque she found in the mall that day which reads "Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created. Esther 4:14"  I instantly write it down in my journal knowing darn well that this is a great "after the credits" scene for a movie with a pretty good Hollywood ending. 

"I am so glad that I stayed until the very end."

Thanks, Amy.


I began Time and Space a year ago, not knowing where it would take me. I look all the way back to Life Lessons in the Rain, my first really focused effort, then I discover different points throughout the past year during which I would return to share my thoughts and feelings about this same all-too-real story, not realizing until recently that all the posts sort of fit together. Go figure, huh? 

As I make this post this morning, I have to thank the people who encouraged me to continue writing: my family, especially Mom; my friends from all over, Kathy, Jodi, Becky, Betsy, and anyone I may have forgotten; Sabrina, my former student who keeps popping up in my life as a reminder to follow my passion nowmy new friends, the parents of CCHS baseball who let me be part of the story, especially to Heather and Jason for their kindness when I needed it; the guys on the team, students I have taught who seemed to have appreciated that I was there; and God, for giving me a means to deal with all of my "issues" in life and for His keeping an eye on our "knucklehead" up there.