Bottom of the 9th, #57 – Pass It On

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Bottom of the 9th - Pass It On

Pass It On

by Meredith Weide

Inspired by the actions of Clark Cooper, Senior (IF/OF)

     It is banquet season in the high school baseball world. A wonderful celebration of the young men and coaches who put their hearts into the spring season of play. Just when the players are hitting their stride, the season ends abruptly, along with the school year, and we all find ourselves looking over our shoulders wondering when we will be back at the ballpark.

One of the traditions at a Valor Baseball banquet is something called “Pass it onâ€. The senior baseball players bequeath a meaningful item to an underclassman while delivering a message to that younger player that is sometimes funny, sometimes emotional, sometimes poignant, sometimes all three. I’ve seen the gamut when it comes to these passings on – hats, gloves, cleats, bats, even undergarments. This past Tuesday, something new made the list.

The senior player began his prepared letter to an unsuspecting freshman. His demeanor was humble and polite. Here was this young man who was a little less comfortable in the “business attire†he was sporting than he would have been in his workout uniform. His words were thoughtful and softly spoken. His nervous glance over the crowd was endearing. In his hand he held a throwback device from his little league days – a heart guard. 

If you have never reared a young pitcher in your household, you may not be familiar with the molded, padded, almost home-plate-shaped armor that was strapped or pocketed in place to cover the chest of little ball players who were in the line of fire of a line drive off a metal bat. Countless stories of little boys’ hearts stopping when struck by a batted ball at close range sent many parents scrambling for the equipment to keep their son safe. Most little boys would rather wear a sports bra than put on one of these contraptions, but then, there are many things we do as athletes that are less than comfortable! 

There was a smattering of laughter when the young man held up the heart guard. For some young players, to wear one was the equivalent of using oxygen on Everest – you knew you needed it, but it showed how tough you were if you didn’t use it! Once the recognition and associations by the audience died down, the elder player explained that he was passing this on, because he wanted his charge to protect his heart at all costs. “Protect your heart at all costs.†He was no longer talking about a ball zinging at him. The immediate lump in my throat seems to have affected my ability to remember exactly what was said next. I have no doubt it was equally as moving, but to tell another young man to protect his heart is about as concise a piece of advice anyone could ever pass along. 

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

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