The Verbum Dei Eagles varsity baseball team warms up by playing catch prior to the first game of a March 3 doubleheader in Avalon on Catalina Island. Photograph by John Stradley, English Department Chair
“You wanna have a catch?” It’s a line of dialogue from 1989’s Field of Dreams that is certain to tug at the heart of anyone. The question in the film speaks to lost opportunities, to times past, and to new beginnings. When I pose that same question to the gentlemen of Verbum Dei, I speak of new opportunities, of better understanding, and also to some new beginnings. Playing a pick-up game of catch has become a cherished part of my lunchtimes at the Verb. My classroom faces Senior Square, and on any given day, several members of the varsity baseball team congregate at the tables outside in the corridor. I have taken to storing my equipment bag in my classroom for such opportunities.
Playing catch in that space allows my students and former students to see me in a new light and under a blue sky, far removed from the classroom setting that is the basis of our most frequent interaction. As their thrown balls smack into the pocket of my favorite glove or my throws find their mark in their mitts, we enjoy the celebration of baseball – the delight in throwing accurately and catching decisively. I see these gentlemen in a different light as well, for many who squeeze their hands into one of my two extra child-size gloves are not current players on the Verb roster, but former park-leaguers and Little League players who have left the game for other pursuits. Still, the feel of the stitches and the warmth of a leather glove draw them back.
I had the good fortune to accompany our baseball team to a double header against Avalon High School on Catalina Island a few weeks ago. It was a wonderful day for baseball in any setting, and the Verbum Dei squad represented themselves well in play and in spirit. The team is forming anew with different coaching and many new players. Along with their equipment bags, the players bring a desire to learn, to grow, and to contribute. While the viability of fielding a baseball team may have seemed dubious earlier in the school year, all elements have come together to make Verbum Dei baseball a reality. “If you build it, he will come,” whispers the voice of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams. The dedication of many at the Verb has shown that if you build it, they will come, and they will come with heart and a desire to contribute.