In His time
Eight years ago I was sitting on some dilapidated bleachers in a pile of weeds on the visitor’s side of the baseball field at University High. My son, Graham, who had been put on the varsity as a 13-year old freshman, was there; he played an inning or two in left field, as I recall. What I remember most about that day was the man standing by the fence clicking a stopwatch off and on as the baserunners went past. He was there for a reason, and it wasn’t to cheer on the Venice High baseball team.
Writers have a funny habit of trying to see things from 10,000 feet. Or in my case, from a little bit higher. And when you pair that curiosity with a maternal desire to do whatever is necessary to support your kid in doing the thing they love, well—— watch out. Down the bleachers I went, across the rocky dirt that led to the fence to stand beside him. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“Timing the baserunners,” he said, never taking his eye off the field, the watch, and back again. For the next half hour I asked him questions. About what made a good ballplayer, a good pitcher, about how someone could recognize those things. About what a player should do to get noticed, about how much was in their control. About schools and leagues and the level of play throughout the city. He never stopped timing. I never stopped probing. By the end of our chat, he pulled out a card and handed it to me. It read:
Artie Harris, L.A. Dodgers Scout, Draft Room Coordinator, Elite Team Coordinator.
“If you have any more questions,” Artie said, “Feel free to give me a call.”
A year later, I began writing “The Pitcher’s Mom,” and when I had a draft done, I called Artie to read it. He gave me notes on that draft and several others: we met at Maxwell’s in Venice over pancakes and eggs and we talked about baseball and my kids and his: his daughter, who was younger than me, was battling cancer. He and his wife were trying to keep their grandkids busy and happy and stable. I told him I would pray for them all. When I heard, later, through the grapevine that she had passed, I sent a note, but other than that we had not been in touch since my son graduated from high school.
Last year, when the movie Moneyball came out, I almost died laughing to see Artie and some of the other scouts we’d come to know in our time in the world of scout league baseball in Southern California. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that those scout scenes are pure gold, and Artie is one of the gems of the bunch. This week, when I knew that The Pitcher’s Mom was finally going to be released, I wrote him. Within a day he responded, offering whatever help he could, including this incredibly lovely and humbling quote:
“Heather Davis has a much better insight into the whole baseball process than almost any of the parents I’ve known over the last 50+ years. If you’re a mom with a kid in the game, and you want to look at the big picture, ‘The Pitcher’s Mom’ is the book you should be reading.”
There is a wonderful verse in the Bible that says “…all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
I cannot tell you how much delight it brings me to think about that funny little chat we had on a field so long ago, and how it helped to plant the first seeds that would lead to me writing this novel, and how now, it’s come full-circle with him playing a part in helping me promote it. If you have a chance to read the book, be on the look-out for a character based on Artie and our first stopwatch chat by the fence. It is one more moment that makes me smile as I am reminded— once again —that in God’s good economy, nothing is ever wasted.
(to order a copy of “The Pitcher’s Mom” just click on the title on the menu above)