Inspiration operates on her own timetable. She demands determined faithfulness to one’s craft, whatever that craft may be — writing, art, music, or any other worthwhile activity under the sun. Inspiration also has a mischievous sense of humor whispering late at night and early in the morning and almost always in the middle of my pastor’s sermon.
For Christmas of 2017, my youngest daughter gave me a baseball. On this baseball, carefully handwritten, were the words, “Dad, Wanna play catch?”
I grew up playing catch with my dad. From second grade through age 16, the pop of leather and feeling of the seams beneath my fingertips provided the foundation for our relationship. My skills peaked as a benchwarmer for the junior varsity team of Kickapoo High School, but my love for the game has only increased in the decades since.
I love playing catch. I love everything it represents and teaches about life. Cooperation above competition. Establishing a relationship of trust. Freedom from technology. Focus on life in the present tense. Playing catch engages all the senses and delights the soul and leaves you with sore muscles and funny tan lines. As G. K. Chesterton said, “The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.”
On January 1, with the wind chill at 1 degree, Sophie and I put on a half dozen layers and went to the field to play catch. There were no real rules, although we stayed until each of us threw the ball 30 times. My hand wouldn’t fit inside my favorite glove with a glove underneath, so I felt the full effects of the temperature on my bare hands. That afternoon, just a couple degrees warmer, I stepped into the backyard with my oldest daughter Kaylea for my second game of catch on the first day of the year.
And then Inspiration whispered. Why not play catch every day for an entire year?
No one ever said anything about inspiration making sense.
Two of my mantras are “Baseball brings people together,” and “Baseball tells the best stories.” Playing catch every day felt like a natural way to truly test those mantras. Ten-year old me couldn’t wait to get started. Forty-three year old me worried about my arm falling off.
Now six months into this ridiculous catch-playing adventure, I am passionate about taking risks to reach out and connect with new friends. My family took one 2,000 mile trek throughout the Midwest playing catch and making friends and are preparing to go on a second one in just a few days. None of this makes much sense and it definitely doesn’t make any cents, but we are creating epic memories in the process. From the beauty of the falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to meeting a player from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, this is a year defined by play.
Ethan Bryan is a storyteller whose narratives explore what it means to live a good story. He is the author of ten books including America at the Seams, a coffee table book that sold more than 2,000 copies in the first month, as well as a couple of children’s picture books.
His writings earned him an opportunity to speak at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, an invitation to the White House for the Royals World Series championship, and endorsements from several former MLB players including Jim “The Rookie” Morris.
Bald since the age of six, Ethan knows about overcoming personal obstacles and being bullied. He also understands the power of hope, persevering through hundreds of manuscript rejections.
A major fan of both Dr Pepper and chocolate donuts, Ethan’s catch-playing stories can be found here: https://whisperedwriting.wordpress.com/.