Winning the 2015 Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League Championship is a great achievement for the Bucks organization and the 20 players who hoisted the trophy at Aviator Field in Westhampton on Saturday night, a week ago.
But an incident that happened 1,500 miles away the following day proved there is so much more to baseball than just a winning record.
On that Sunday, a batboy working for a collegiate team in the Kansas Jayhawk League died after being struck in the head by an errant swing. Nine-year-old Kaiser Carlile ran past the on-deck circle to retrieve a dropped bat while a member of his beloved Liberal BeeJays was taking his final warm-up swings.
“This is a 9-year-old kid … who just wanted to be one of the guys,” said BeeJays General Manager Mike Carlile, a relative of the boy.
Shelter Island prides itself on offering summertime entertainment for the entire family, and children are an integral part of each home game at Fiske Field. To the annoyance of their parents, little boys ignore ticks and poison ivy, scampering into the woods to recover every foul ball. A revolving cast of school children performs the National Anthem before every game.
And of course, Shelter Island’s own batboy, Tate Ford, darts onto the field after each at-bat before returning to the Bucks dugout with a bat in hand.
The late David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech 10 years ago that later became an essay titled “This is Water.” He tells a tale of two fish that swim past another fish that asks, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?”
After mulling the question for a while, one fish turns to the other and says, “What the hell is water?”
Wallace summarized his speech a few lines later: “The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.”
It can be overwhelmingly easy to lose oneself in the intricacies of sports and, by extension, life itself. We’ve all muttered a choice word or two when our favorite team is cheated by a bad call, or when a car tries to cut a ferry line. We’re frustrated when a friend fails to respond to a text or a coworker shows up late for a shift. Sometimes it’s difficult to stop and ask — what does it matter?
The Bucks, their General Manger Dave Gurney and his team of volunteers have given us a summer to cherish, complete with many gifts, too many to list here, topping it off with a championship.
Let’s remain thankful for what we’ve won, but also for what we haven’t lost, remembering Kaiser, his family and a grieving team out in Kansas. In the words of Wallace, “It is about simple awareness — awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: ‘This is water, this is water.’”