May 21, 2024 at 2:02 p.m.

Selflessness was signature moment

Back in the Saddle

Editor’s note: This column is being reprinted from May 20, 2009. If you read this column regularly, you know by now that Jack was a regular at the ball park. He usually came back with a story. In this case, it had nothing to do with the action on the field but rather some selflessness in the stands.

The place was crawling with Cub Scouts.

Not that I have anything against Cub Scouts. I was a Cub Scout myself.

But I’ve never seen quite so many as were at Sunday’s baseball game at Victory Field in Indianapolis.

Some sort of special promotion guaranteed that there were Cubs everywhere. Most were in uniform, but some were not. And after awhile it became a little difficult to tell who was a Cub and who was not.

We’d gone down to Indy to catch a game and spend the afternoon with Sally and her boyfriend, Ben, who had made the trip up from Bloomington.

The weather, finally, was marvelous. And the game was a good one, with a nice run-down between first and second in the first inning and some very smart defensive play.

But it was about the seventh inning when something special happened.

We were sitting a few rows up from the dugout on the first base line, a great area to be if you’re interested in snagging a foul ball.

Several flew over us onto the roof or into the upper deck. A number went straight back into the net.

Then, with a right-hander at the plate, one sailed up and over in our direction.

I jumped up, though I guessed it would be out of reach.

It was.

But one row up, the father of a Cub Scout caught the foul in his glove. A cheer went up. Then like any good dad, he handed the ball to his son. The Cub Scout beamed. He was in his blue uniform, and the badges on his chest noted that he had earned his Tiger Cub status along with Bobcat and Wolf.

He couldn’t have been happier.

That’s when something remarkable happened.

Another boy, a kid who may or may not have been a Cub Scout, was sitting in front of me. He was wearing one of the free promotional t-shirts that had been passed out to early arrivals at the gate.

He turned to his mother, and there was some huddled conversation.

Then, as the inning ended, the boy’s mom turned and called up a couple of rows to the family with the Cub Scout and the foul ball.

“Did number 12 hit that foul ball?” she asked.

There was some consultation, but the answer was yeah, it was number 12 who hit the ball that the Cub Scout was now cradling.

The boy in front of me held out his ticket.

“Number 12 autographed his ticket,” the boy’s mother explained.

The Cub Scout’s family nodded and smiled and said something like, “That’s nice.”

Then the mother of the boy with the autographed ticket said, “He wants to know if you’d like to have it to go with the ball.”

Right there. Bam. A home run of spontaneous generosity. The kind you don’t get to witness every day.

The Cub Scout nodded wildly. Sure, he’d love to have the signed ticket to go with the ball. What could be better?

The ticket was passed, and the two families returned their attention to the game.

But I couldn’t stop smiling.

The boy in front of me exchanged high fives with his dad, a man who was — at that moment — the proudest human being in the ballpark. Or to be precise, one of the two proudest human beings in the ballpark. Mom and dad both had a role in this one.

I thought for a moment about congratulating them, telling them what a good job they were doing raising kids who were so thoughtful and kind to others.

But that would have struck a wrong note.

That would have been implied that the kindness shown was somehow extraordinary, and what the boy’s parents were teaching was something different. They were teaching that thoughtfulness and kindness and unselfishness are the expected norm. It’s called doing what you should do, without applause and whether it’s witnessed or not.

Just the same, I left the ballpark lifted up a little bit, reminded of some useful lessons.

And I suspect the Cub Scout with the baseball and the autographed ticket given to him by a stranger learned something as well.




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