My boy stood on the pitching rubber looking irritated as he shook off the catcher’s latest sign. The umpire had just called ‘ball’ on another beautiful pitch. As a result, my son had fallen behind in the count; two balls to one strike. With bases loaded and two away in the final inning, a solitary out kept the team’s first win of the season at bay.
I could plainly see the frustration on his face. But I couldn’t do anything about it. I’d already made my one allotted mound visit for the inning after he’d walked the previous batter. “He shouldn’t have walked on those pitches,” my son had protested once I’d strolled over.
A second mound visit now would end his pitching for the night. Besides, with the infielders gathered around the mound just moments ago we’d already discussed many of the usual things. Relax. You’ve got this. Don’t overthink it. Sure, there’s been some bad calls. That’s just part of the game. Don’t let the ump get in your head. Don’t worry about aiming and then overcompensate. Stride out strong. Come down hard, and just let your muscle memory do the rest. Keep throwing like you’re throwing and the kid will have to swing. Your infield will make the play. “Yeah,” they had chimed in. “We got your back, man.”
But now, unable to approach the mound again, I could see the runner on third base taking an aggressive lead off the bag. He wasn’t a fast runner, but hoped to steal home on a passed ball to the plate nonetheless. He’d be easy to pick off with that lead. My frustrated son stood there directly facing the runner but not noticing his vulnerability. Instead he focused on his internal annoyance with the ump whom, in his estimation, had caused the irritation. With a laser-like focus on his catcher, he shook off another sign.
The runner had a huge lead now. Forget the batter and the pitch count. Throw to the third baseman and catch the kid off base instead. Pick the runner off at third and get out of the inning. “Pick three,” I futilely signed to no one in particular since no one in particular saw me. “Pick three!”
The catcher once again called for a change up convinced that would be the best pitch for the current situation. My boy shook it off a third time. Four seam fastball or nothing in his mind. This time the ump would have no choice but to call it a strike.
“Pick three,” I silently screamed and uselessly signaled once again! One throw could bring the win that had so far eluded them over the first few games. But both the catcher and pitcher remained oblivious to the runner off third and a quick end to the inning.
After the game I asked my son why he hadn’t picked off the runner at third. “I didn’t notice him,” he responded.
“I kept trying to give you the sign to pick him off. But you never looked over at me,” I lightly scolded.
He paused then acquiescently admitted, “I guess I should look at you every once in a while.”
I’m certain there are times in my life when I’m on the pitcher’s mound barely noticing the game happening around me. I’m focused on my latest hardship; Frustrated with whatever I perceive caused it and determined to doggedly throw another fastball at it.
I’m also certain the Lord observes the whole field. He paces the dugout with a perfect understanding of the best play to get me out of the inning. Through the Spirit’s promptings he signals me the whole time. But I’m not looking over.
I guess sometimes when I’m on my knees exhausted at the end of the day or listening to conference talks a second time as I mindlessly drive somewhere, I might not always notice Him. Maybe I’m being less diligent with my personal scripture study and I miss the runner standing off third who’s right in front of my eyes. Perhaps I should readjust my focus away from my internal irritations and serve others more. And if I’ll look over to the dugout more frequently, I’ll notice the Lord’s pick three sign I need to see.