12 Players Away From Greatness?


As the parents of three boys, ranging in age from brand new teenager to very nearly 20, it’s not our first rodeo with team sports.  We’ve darn near visited every Catholic parish with a participating boys CYO team in the Indianapolis area, and I’d challenge you to come up with a baseball field in the state of Indiana we’ve not discovered.  Sweaty, smelly gyms full of basketball players?  Football gear that isn’t allowed past the garage?  Check and check.  We’ve got particular expertise in baseball purgatory over the years, as we have traveled with some marginally talented baseball teams to places far and wide with teams who could surely find plenty of other boys to beat them within 30 minutes of home.  Just sayin.

This year’s 12U baseball team is a new one for our youngest.  Changing teams periodically is kind of a baseball given.  They come together, they fall apart.  We decided to say yes to joining this one because a big chunk of the boys on the team will likely be future HS classmates of our Z-man, the practice field at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is like 8 minutes from our driveway….and well…our good buddy Steve Ferrucci was darn near going to have to drive by our house on his way there to help coach the little goofballs.  As the head of transportation at the Thieme house, I was not a bit sad about that development.

How’s the team been looking this summer?  Glad you asked! Well, I’m a big fan of the Raider uniforms, despite their place in the pole position as the most complicated hot mess in the history of sports.  Why would I be willing to overlook the 27 possible uniform combos I am surely going to screw up eventually?  Because they have a cross on the back, and every single tournament someone has asked me about that.  I love the conversations that have ensued.

I’m still working on behaving like a Christian mother should when our boys have one of those “moments” and seem to have zero clue where to throw the ball or how to catch a pop fly—and sometimes when umpires don’t know the rules.  That really bugs.  “But I’m a passionate person” is my typical response to my hubby, in the face of my extraordinary gift of volume.  What of the quality of the team, though, you wonder??  My hubby, a man of carefully chosen words, has responded to those asking that question with this apt reply.  “Well, we’re 12 players away from greatness!!”  That makes me giggle.

I really do believe and trust in God’s plan for each of us—down to the little guy baseball and all!  Yesterday was that gospel reading which includes this powerful passage about His intimate love for each of us which says “are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without the Father’s knowledge.  Even all the hairs of your head are counted.  So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than sparrows.” (Mt 10) 

At the mass I attended with two of my children, the celebrant gave a powerful homily which spoke loudly to that same message about how deeply and intimately we are all loved.  It made me feel slightly guilty for joining my youngest son in a minor eye roll when they declared that this particular man of God was our celebrant for the mass.  After his well-prepared homily with the perfect message, interiorly, I heard, “How about you drop the crappy attitude and work on graciousness, huh?”

My personal holiness is really shining in this entry, ha??  Here’s the rest of the story.

If we flashback to a little over a week ago, this same little Raiders 12U baseball team was playing a game at the Field of Dreams.  Yes.  That’s actually what the ballpark is called.  (Someone else dreams differently than I do).  But, I digress.  Zach was on the mound.  He seemed perfectly healthy.  When it came time for him to bat, though, in the bottom of the 2nd, he hit a ground ball to the short stop and was trying to beat it out.  On the way to 1st base, he came up lame and fell to the ground about halfway there.  It was pretty evident he had injured himself.  The dad of one Z’s teammates is an ER doc.  He glanced over to myself and Tom and inquired, “Is it ok if I go take a look?”  We kind of laughed a little as we were both thinking, “Well, hell yeah.  What are we gonna do?  Offer him a Gatorade?”  It was the uber gracious and sunny Dave Schlueter who absolutely kept Z from passing out when he got a bit lightheaded following the incident.  Certainly, the Doc was the face of Jesus to both Zach as well as his parents that morning.

I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the doc and asked Jesus to just be powerfully present to Z as he healed and recovered.  I had barely finished the prayer when the Ferrucci’s showed up with a bag full of sports distractions and love.

The Orthopedic doc we saw declared it a hamstring injury and put him on crutches and rest.  That’s not what you want to hear when you’re a (soon to be 7th grader and) baseball guy in the middle of the summer fun.  Still, he realized it could have been much worse, and Zach handled the situation in stride.   He cheered loudly (and late into the night) for his guys this weekend and THEY WON their tourney!  He was pumped about the victory and excited to join in the fun at BW3 afterward.

Guess what happened next?

All the coaches and players signed the game ball— and gave it to Z.  It was the first thing he showed us when he returned home from the celebration.

Classy?  You betcha.  Those brand new friends are some pretty solid peeps.

So this week, as we celebrated the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, there were just SO MANY kindnesses I noticed that helped me remember that Jesus loves each of us— all the way down to our smelly, broken-down, baseball loving core.  I felt compelled to share a couple of the baseball variety, because, well, team sports teach us many things.  Some of them are amazingly good and often that gets little airplay. This group of baseball players is not the most talented group I have ever seen, but they ARE 12 GREAT KIDS.

“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  — Mother Teresa

Special thanks to the Fremion, Schlueter, Ferrucci, Kreiner, Modleski, McGowan, Ellery, Sevume, Quigley and Sanders families.  Kindness counts. That’s what boys learn when they are being raised by parents who model Christ’s love and value the same.

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