Downey-Florence Seventh-day Adventist Church

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Baseball Heroes
by Rabbi Paysach Krohn


In the competitive world of the 1990's, one wonders  whether the old adage still holds true:  "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."

The following true story illustrates the power of human   concern - even in the face of intense competition. In Brooklyn, New York,  Chush is a school that caters to learning-disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school careers, while others can be mainstreamed into conventional Jewish schools. There are a few children who attend Chush for most of the week and a regular school on Sundays.  At a Chush fundraising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.

After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection in my son Shaya?  Everything that God does is done with perfection.  But my child cannot understand things as other children do.  My child cannot understand things as other children do.  Where is God's perfection?"  The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish, and stilled by his piercing query.  "I believe," the father answered, "that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way people react to this child."

He then told the following story about his son Shaya.  Shaya attends Chush throughout the week and a boy's yeshiva (Torah institute) on Sundays. One Sunday afternoon, Shaya and his father came to the yeshiva as his classmates were playing baseball.  The game was in progress and as Shaya and his father made their way towards the ball field, Shaya said,
"Do you think you could get me into the game?" Shaya's father knew his son was not at all athletic, and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya's father understood that if his son was chosen, it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging.  Shaya's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked,  "Do you think my Shaya could get into the game?" The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates.  Getting none, he took  matters into his own hands and said, "We are losing by 6 runs and the games already in the 8th inning.   I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him up to bat in the 9th inning.

"Shaya's father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly.  Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom of the 8th inning.  Shaya's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.  In the bottom of the 9th inning, Shaya's team scored again - and now with two cuts and the bases loaded and the potential winning runs on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up.  Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shaya was told to take a bat and try to get a hit. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible, for Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it.  However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact.  The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed.  One of Shaya's teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch.

The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shaya.  As the next pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first basemen. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game.  Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far and wide beyond the first baseman's reach.  Everyone started yelling, "Shaya, run to first!  Shaya, run to first!"  Never in his life had Shaya run to first.  He scampered down  the baseline wide eyed and startled.  By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball.  He could have thrown the all to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running.  But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head, as everyone yelled, "Shaya, run to second! Shaya, run to second."  Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home.   As Shaya reached second base, the opposing shortstop  ran towards him, turned him towards the direction of third base and shouted,"Shaya, run to third!"  As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming. "Shaya, run home! Shaya, run home!"  Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit the "grand slam" and won the game  for his team.

"That day," said the father who now had tears rolling own his face, "those 18 boys reached their level of perfection. They showed that it is not only those who are talented that should be recognized, but also those who have less talent.  They too are human beings, they too have feelings and emotions, they too are people, they too want to  feel important."

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