Lonely Old Man Makes Baseball Bats for Poor Boys He Meets, Former Player Sees Them Training One Day – Story of the Day
An old man starts making baseball bats for a group of poor children he meets playing in the park, and his kind act ends up changing all their lives.
Every afternoon, Gerald Wallace walked past the neighborhood park where a dozen local kids threw a tennis ball around and tried to hit it with bats made from stripped tree branches.
Gerald could see that the kids were poor. Their clothes were clean but obviously worn hand-me-downs, and a few of them wore sneakers held together with insulation tape. But despite everything, they were giving the game everything they had.
They reminded Gerald of some of the best days of his life, back when he'd still believed the world was his oyster and everything was possible, the summer when he'd discovered he had an incredible talent.
Gerald smiled to himself. Maybe one of these kids had that same fire burning inside him, that magic touch that could spin a ball out of the park, or over the pitch, whizzing past an opponent's startled face. Yeah... Maybe one of those kids out there had a seed of greatness that could make him a star...
It is never too late to change and make good on the mistakes of the past.
That evening, when Gerald got home, he went into his workshop and blew the dust off his woodworking tools. Maybe there was something he could contribute!
Two weeks later, Gerald walked to the park with a bag over his shoulder. The kids were out there, and they had marked out a rough diamond with smooth stones. "Hey kids," Gerald said. "I've got something for you!"
The oldest of the kids looked at Gerald with disdain. "Get moving, old man!" he snorted. "We're not idiots, we don't talk to creepy strangers!"
Gerald saw a group of poor kids playing baseball in the park. | Source: Unsplash
Gerald grinned. "Good for you, dude," he answered. "I'm a stranger but I promise you I'm not creepy!" Gerald reached into the bag and pulled out a brand new baseball ball and threw it at the older kid in a smooth overhand motion.
"Here," he said. "Try this, and this..." He pulled out two old baseball mitts, worn but well oiled, and tossed them to two more kids. Then he pulled out three baseball bats that he'd made himself.
The kids were gaping at the equipment. "Man," cried the older kid. "Are these for us?" Gerald nodded and grinned. He was enjoying the kids' delight in the bats, the ball, and the gloves.
One of the smaller kids gripped the bat and essayed a swing clumsily. "Wait a minute, kid," Gerald said. He showed the kid how to grip the bat properly. "Keep your feet still, and swing from your center!" he advised.
Before long, the kids were all trying out the bats and throwing the ball, making catches. Gerald sat on the grass and watched, smiling. It had been a long time since he'd felt so good about himself.
The kids reminded Gerald of his glory days as a pro player. | Source: Unsplash
The next day, Gerald walked by the park, and the older kid spotted him. "Hey, old man!" the kid shouted. "Wait up!" Gerald stopped and waited for the kid to catch up to him.
"Listen," the kid said. "We really like the bats and the ball and the gloves, man, but it's not enough."
Gerald frowned. "Not enough?" he asked, irritated. "Well, kid, I'm sorry but I'm retired and I don't have the money for fancy equipment..."
"No!" the kid cried. "That's not what I meant, I mean, we want you to help us. We don't just want to knock the ball around. We want to be a real team, really play the game right. Can you help us?"
Gerald looked at the kid and hesitated. All the other kids had gathered around, waiting for his answer. "Look, I don't have the time..." he started, but the smallest kid interrupted him.
Gerald got the kids some gloves and a ball. | Source: Unsplash
"You said you was retired!" he piped up. "I heard you. My grandpa is retired and he says he got nothing to do all the blessed day!"
Gerald sighed. "Look, that's true, but..." he shook his head. "I'm no good with kids, OK?"
"Don't you have any of your own?" asked another one of the kids.
"I did, once..." Gerald said, and the memories of his wife's tears, his son's little face watching him stagger into the house clouded his eyes.
"What happened to them?" asked the littlest one.
"We don't just want to knock the ball around. We want to be a real team." | Source: Unsplash
"It was just one kid," Gerald answered crossly. "And it's none of your business!" But looking at those hopeful faces around him. Gerald just couldn't say no. "OK," he said. "We'll try it. But if any of you miss practice, we are over!"
Gerald had to admit that the kids were dedicated. They were there for practice every day, and they played from the heart. Gerald was so impressed by their commitment that he even contacted the Little League organization to find out how to register his team.
The answer was discouraging. Gerald needed a venue and a budget and referees and uniforms... "But these are a bunch of kids who just want to play!" Gerald explained.
"Look, the best we can do is send someone over to talk to you, OK?" the woman said. Gerald agreed, but he didn't think they'd send anyone over. He started wondering how he was going to break the news to the kids.
But the next day, there was a man at the park watching the kids when Gerald arrived. Gerald walked up to the man. "Are you the League representative?" he asked.
One day a man came to watch the kids play. | Source: Unsplash
The man nodded. "Yes, I am. You just go ahead and train like you always do," he said. "I'm here to observe."
There was something about the man that was so familiar! Gerald's heart started hammering, but he whistled to the boys and they started playing. Every second he was aware of the man watching them, watching HIM.
When the practice was over, the kids gathered up their equipment, said goodbye to Gerald, and walked out of the park. Gerald took a deep breath and walked over to the man from the league.
"It's been a long time, Sam," he said quietly. "Over twenty years, but you have your mother's eyes. I followed your career, you know. I even watched you play a few times..."
Gerald recognized the son he hadn't seen in over 20 years. | Source: Unsplash
Sam Wallace looked his father in the eye and said, "You know, when I was a kid, all I ever wanted was for you to show me how to swing a bat like you showed that little kid, but you never did."
Gerald had tears in his eyes. "I know my mistakes better than you could possibly imagine, Sam," he said. "I know I failed you and your mom. When I became a star, I started living it up, drinking too much.
"First I ruined my family and your mom left and took you with her, then I ruined what could have been a great career. I lost everything, even my love of the game. With these kids, I get to get a little of it back.
"It's like I'm getting a second chance. Every time I teach one of them a move, it's like I'm teaching you. I wanted to give them what I had -- a chance to play and rise above the poverty they live in. To make up for what I did to you..."
Gerald's team took second place at the State Championship. | Source: Unsplash
There were tears running down Sam's face and he stepped forward and hugged his father. "It's OK dad," he said. "A friend of mine in the League called me and told me what you were trying to do. I understand, I forgive you. And I'm going to help you make things right."
With Sam's help, Gerald registered the team in Little League, and in their second year out, they took second place in the State Championship. Sam and Gerald eventually founded a baseball school, and over the years, many of their players went pro.
What can we learn from this story?
- It is never too late to change and make good on the mistakes of the past. Gerald started to train the poor kids to make up for the way he'd neglected his own son and ended up creating a family.
- Forgive those who hurt you while you can, before it's too late. Sam forgave his father, and the two were blessed with many years together.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.
If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about two orphaned girls who are reduced to looking for food in dumpsters when their guardian spends their inheritance on luxuries for herself.
This account is inspired by our reader’s story and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone’s life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org