I recently had a chance to play catch with one of our kids from tutoring - you know, the game where you throw a ball back and forth.... and back.... and forth. And as I was telling my friend Suzanne about it, she said, "I never really understood that game. Just throwing the ball."
I had never thought much about it, but as I explained to her what Catch really is, it helped me understand why two gloves and a baseball can be an awesome thing.
When I was a little boy, playing catch with my dad was my most favorite things to do. I could have spent hours in the backyard tossing the baseball with him, and I would wait eagerly in the evenings for him to come from work, gloves at the ready. For one thing, Catch was one-on-one time with my dad, just me and him. We didn't have to talk a lot - there was something great about just being together, outside, watching the evening fade. Catch involved a back and forth exchange - it's no fun playing by yourself. As I grew older, Catch allowed me to test my strength, to see how measured up, so I would try to throw harder and harder, making his glove pop louder and louder, seeing if I could make his hand sting through the leather. Eventually I tried my hand at pitching, seeing how accurate I could be in hitting his mitt (usually ending up with my dad making many trips down the hill in our backyard to recover my wild throws).
If we ever got bored with simple back and forth, there were always variations. Grounders and Pop Fly's became favorites, and I learned to not be afraid as the ball skipped randomly over the grass and sometimes popped up at my face, and I learned to shield my eyes from the sun and use two hands to secure the ball when it landed in my glove. In the winter, we would put a ball in the pocket of our gloves, having rubbed neatsfoot oil all over it, and the wrap it with raw-hide to get it ready for spring.
Playing catch with my young friend the other day was me passing on a gift that my dad had given to me, a gift of time and attention. I could tell Darrius was thrilled to have 20-30 minutes of my time, just me and him. He was excited to learn to throw harder and more accurately with just a couple pointers, and he grinned ear to ear as he showed his mom how he could pitch. When I first suggested Catch to him, he said he'd rather just get a bat and hit. But I think now he sees the simple joy of trowing a ball back and forth.... back and forth..... back.... and... forth.