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THE BASEBALL



I cannot count the hours, days, weeks or even months that we children at the orphanage sat on the swings with absolutely nothing to do. Whatever toys were donated by the various organizations was generally placed in a locked closet over at the dining hall next to the head matron's bedroom.

There was a basketball court, but no basketball. There was a tether pole, but no ball or rope. There was a vacant field for baseball, but no baseballs, baseball gloves or bats. There was a double driveway sidewalk running up the back of the boys' dormitory, but no roller skates. There was nothing except the old swing set and the monkey bars, which had most of the bars missing.

We kids would sit for hours on the swing set just slowly rocking back and forth as though we were all mentally challenged. Sometimes, we would take sticks from the bamboo piles and draw pictures in the dirt or play tic-tac-toe. Once in a while, we would play sword fighting with the sticks until we were caught, slapped across the face and made to go to bed for the remainder of the day without supper. One day while we were sitting on the swing set, we heard the crack of a baseball bat. The loud sound came from the baseball diamond located in the Spring Park Elementary School yard on the other side of the orphanage fence.

All of a sudden, a smashing sound was heard as the baseball landed in the tall bamboo clumps beside our swing set. Not one boy moved. We knew what had happened and though we were very excited, we still moved not one hair on our heads. We had waited everyday for almost a year for this wonderful event to take place.

We could hear the commotion on the other side of the fence as the baseball team looked for the lost baseball. Still, we moved not a muscle. After about 30 minutes, the team called off the hunt for the ball and ended its game.

We hunted for hours in the clumps of bamboo, until one of the boys located the lost baseball.

"HERE IT IS!" yelled one of the boys.

The precious item was carefully removed from the brown, dried bamboo clumps. All 15 of us boys gathered into a tight circle and passed the ball from one boy to another. Some boys would caress, others would hold and one even kissed the wonderful prize.

There was not one dry eye in the circle as the ball was passed around. It was worth more to us than gold was to the king of Egypt. It was the one magic thing that would fill our lives with something we needed - something that was even more precious to us orphans than love itself. It was a wonderful, wonderful thing that would allow us to fill that void in our lives by giving us something to do.

We had that baseball for more than a year. I will never forget the day the cover came off the baseball. It hit a pine tree when one of the boys threw it. It hit the tree and flew into a hundred million small pieces.

I have been asked many times if there was ever one happy day in my life as a child, while living in the orphanage. Yes, there was one day when I truly felt happiness as a child. It was the day we found that wonderful, precious baseball.



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