Morning Therapy Over A Game of Catch
by Russ Florence
In most every town in America, you’ll see them at a table in the back corner of the local diner: a group of people – mostly men, usually older – who meet regularly for coffee. They come to talk about current events, sports, or politics, or to share stories about travel or family.
But mainly, they come for the camaraderie. They come to be with others.
In Oklahoma City, some of us have formed a loose network with a similar intent. But instead of gathering around a diner, we gather around a make-shift baseball diamond at a local park, gloves in hand. We play catch. We field a few easy grounders and lazy pop flies. We bring donuts.
Yes, it scratches the itch to throw and catch a ball. But that’s not what it’s all about. Its beauty is in the third of Rotary’s four-way test. “Will it build goodwill and better friendships?” Indeed, it has.
It’s a mishmash of people. Journalists, corporate types, politicos, government workers, nonprofit executives, creatives. Men and women, young and old and in between. Some of them knew each other before. Many did not.
I’ve long maintained that a game of catch is more than a game of catch. In the rhythm of the simple back and forth, there’s a give and take, a palpable connection between two people. It’s a conversation, both literally and metaphorically.
Political differences don’t matter when the common goal is to make a good throw. Scoop a grounder, throw it to first, and the rapport begins – even if you just met the person on the receiving end. And more than a few conversations in the outfield have been interrupted when one of the fielders has to sprint mid-sentence to track down a fly ball: “Hold that thought, I gotta get this.”
It’s a great equalizer. Trust me, our limitations are on full display. Yet when someone stretches a bit to make a catch – or tumbles to the ground trying to nab one that’s out of reach – the cheers and jeers make us feel like a pro. Eat your heart out, Derek Jeter.
The text messages and conversations afterward confirm its worth. As James Earl Jones says in “Field of Dreams,” it’s “as if they dipped themselves in magic waters.”
“It’s the first time I’ve thrown a ball in years,” one friend told me. “I felt like a kid again. Except I don’t remember needing Advil as a kid.”
It’s recess for adults, a brief escape from the world, to laugh with friends and play a game you learned to love as a kid. It’s healing. I call it “Saturday morning therapy.”
The timing couldn’t be better. During a time of divisiveness and distance, “it reminds us,” as Jones says in his “Field of Dreams” speech, “of all that once was good, and it could be again.”
If you’re interested in joining us, contact me and I’ll give you the details. I’ll bring the donuts. You bring the Advil.