The Greatest Play

As a life-long sports fan, I was recently watching a program showing videos of great sports plays. It got me to thinking about some of the great plays I’ve seen thoughout my lifetime. As I’m sure many of you have witnessed some great ones, I’ve definitely seen my share. But what was the greatest sports play of all-time? I believe I have the answer.

Now, I don’t want to get into a “my dog is bigger than your dog” situation, but I do feel I have excellent qualifications to make such an assertion. I played several sports growing up and my life’s goal was to be a professional baseball player. Eventually, while playing winter ball with the Los Angeles Angels, an arm injury ended that dream. My wife and I have three sons, all of whom are tremendous athletes, and my nephew whom we consider our fourth son is also an athlete. Our oldest son was a member of Pepperdine’s NCAA Championship Baseball team, our middle son lettered in four different sports, our youngest became a professional baseball player and is now a college coach, and our nephew was a pitcher at UNLV. Probably a little over the top, but getting a chance to brag about these four young men is always fun.

O. K., given my qualifications to judge, what is the greatest play? It happened several years ago when our youngest son was playing for a Little League all-star team at the Little League Western States Regional Championship in San Bernardino, California. You probably expect I will now regale you with some play my 12-year-old made in one of those games. It’s tempting, but I’m going to be very honest. Arriving early to get good seats, we were in time to watch a game being played by young boys from the challenger leagues. These are leagues designed for boys with physical handicaps that prevent them from playing on a regular Little League team. Watching this game was very heartwarming and actually quite interesting. At one point, a very spirited young man without the use of his legs and in a wheelchair came to bat. After striking the ball, he began yelling at he person pushing his wheelchair to go faster. He barely beat the throw to first and was safe. He was so thrilled and animated; he drew the attention of everyone watching the game. What happened next was “the greatest play.” The next hitter got hold of the ball and drove it to the outfield. As the ball was being fielded, the boy in the wheelchair was yelling for the pusher of his chair to go faster. He then made the decision to try for third base. He was yelling “third, third.” The pusher was trying, but pushing the wheelchair in the dirt was a difficult task. By now everyone was on their feet cheering him on. We could see the throw was coming and he was clearly going to be out. At that point, in desperation, the boy unbuckled his safety belt, and with just his arms launched himself out of the chair and flew head first into third. He was safe. It was an incredible moment. He was dirty and scratched up, but the smile on his face was unabashed happiness. The coaches lifted him back up into the chair, and when the next batter got a hit, the young man was pushed triumphantly down the third base line and crossed the plate with both arms outstretched with a broad victorious smile on his scratched and dirty face. His dive from his wheelchair into third base was no doubt the greatest play ever. I don’t think anything else could ever come close.

I’ve never forgotten that young man (I wish I knew his name), and in difficult times I still think about his enthusiam, courage, and effort. If I could meet him again I would say thank you for the inspiration. It’s a life lesson I will never forget.

Hey Joe

While we are on the topic of sports, here’s something you senior football fans might get a kick out of. On a recent trip to Florida while I was checking out at a local grocery store, I saw a gentleman who looked familiar walking out of the store. I rushed outside and said, “Hey Joe.” Sure enough, the man turned around and smiled. It was Joe Namath, legendary Hall of Fame quarterback for the New York Jets. I’m happy to report he was as friendly, funny, and personable as you might guess. We actually talked for several minutes and I snapped this picture of the two of us.

Me and Broadway Joe

Me and Broadway Joe

 

 Happy Thanksgiving

     My wife Trisha and I would like to wish you and you family a very heartfelt and blessed Happy Thanksgiving.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

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