Brownies, Baseball, and Blake Bilyeu

I originally wrote this for a creative nonfiction class I took (with the wonderful Kathleen Finneran), but it’s perfect for today –Cardinals in the World Series, celebrating Blake’s 6th birthday at my parent’s house tonight, and making brownies for the occasion.

I apologize for the reoccurring subject of baseball.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m kind of crazy about it, so get used to reading about it.  😉

Boys are passionate about their sports.  I learned this from my nephew Blake when he was four and I was twenty-four.  Blake and I share a love of baseball.  He knows all the players on the Cardinals team, knows their numbers, their recent game-stopping plays, and heart-stopping injuries, and their facial hair fashions.  He likes to be interviewed as his favorite players.  He likes to replay their games, acting out Rick Ankiel’s collision with an outfield wall or Yadi’s spectacular come-from-behind-the-left-handed-batter-throw-to-first-tag-out of the foolishly unsuspecting base runner.

I love this kid.

One of my favorite moments discussing the finer points of the game with Blake was when he corrected me on a few particulars:  the black streaks players make under their eyes to help shield their eyes from the sun’s rays on bright days.  These come in a variety of thick lines, dabs, and even easily applied “pre-packaged” fake tattoo-like marks with logos or initials whited into them.  Not just some smears of dirt after all.  In fact, it’s not even dirt.

“No, Sarah,” Blake says.  “It’s not dirt.  It’s chocolate!”

When fruit snacks are substituted for chewing tobacco or bubble gum, I guess it’s alright for chocolate to be the appropriate face-wear.  Hey, if it’s a late afternoon game, come the seventh inning stretch when the sky is fading from pink to a hazy blue and the field lights have started attracting moths in droves, taking a finger to your cheek and cleaning the stuff off with your tongue doesn’t seem like a bad idea.  A kind of reward for making it this far.  Like licking the brownie batter off the spoon  right after you’ve put the pan in the oven.  You’re more than halfway there, but you’ve still got some work to do, cleaning out the mixing bowl and putting the ingredients away, waiting for the relief pitchers to do their job before success is fully tasted.  Mmmmm success.  Just like a bite of slightly gooey warm brownie.

leaving the dry land behind

What if we ran into the tide together?

Both afraid and unsure

if this was the right thing to do,

the right time

for getting lost.

When the sand is being tugged away out from under our feet,

and the sun has just begun to beat down overhead,

and I know that you are the only one

that I want to be standing on this beach with,

treading into the cool waters despite our anxieties

seems wonderful and inevitable.

and anyway

I’d want to be holding your hand.

“and I’m finding each time that you fall, you’re just becoming who you are”

crucified savior

lifted up and made manifest

but to how many?

-far less than the hungry crowds he fed before

just a few saw his face in full glory

and they were left to wonder ‘what now?’

there was no road map for converting the Mediterranean

much less one person

‘our leader died, for the whole world to see

but we’ve seen him alive again!

take our word for it’

how foolish his disciples must have felt

what proof could they offer up

beyond their zeal for life

and their quiet assurance

in the promises of God

a crucified savior

seemed to be their downfall

the obvious weak point in their argument

who would follow a failure?

or believe that his very death

was the means by which God would save

more than just a nation

so different than Moses or David

who led their people victoriously

a crucified savior

calling his followers to do the same

to be dragged down in the dust and dirt




to be the ones letting the security of their lives go

to field bias and hatred flung at them from their own camp

but they were being rebuilt in the process


they were different men and women from when

they first met him

and who said the point of life

was to be a success?

crucified but transfigured

into who he was meant to be

‘follow me,’ he said,

‘and watch your life change’

is it worth changing your life

to find out who you are?

to see yourself transfigured

shining, burning, brilliantly bright

for someone else

Rain Delays

Does anybody like them?  When you’re playing in the game of your life, or number fifty-two on a random Tuesday in May, when that sky opens up and sends millions of silver bullets of water plopping into your face, spattering your arms, and caking the infield dirt, you’re first reaction is not, “yes!  I get to put my life on hold for an indeterminate period of time!”

Instead it is a resigned slumping of your shoulders, or a grumble of frustration at how everything in the rest of your day will be pushed back because of this uncalled for intrusion, or just a blink and a reshuffling in your mind to switch off the competitive river pulsing through your veins.

Either way, your day is not made, and an adjustment has to take place.  (Otherwise you’re just standing there in the outfield like a jerk, getting soaked while everyone else trudges towards the dug out and the locker rooms.)

So then maybe you take your mind off the game and talk with the guys about that night out a couple of nights ago, or you start a sunflower seed spitting contest, betting who can spit launch the salty missiles the farthest.  But you’re not really done with the game.  You know you’re just passing the time, filling it up with packing-foam conversation until you can go back to the real stuff.  You fully expect to resume your life exactly where it left off.

But what happens when the rain stretches on long past when you thought it would end?  When thirty minutes turns into sixty, and the manager gets antsy about his pitcher’s arm in the cool weather.  When a fast-moving system turns into a couple days more of rain, and talk of resuming play changes into postponing the game?

For the young adult singles’ game short stop, or the intramural league catcher, this is not that big of a deal.  You flip your hood over your cap and dash back to your car, ready to get on with your life and those errands you still have left to run or that two chapters left to read before class.

But for the major-leaguer in the thick of post season baseball, when one game might determine everything, how can you think about anything else?  What do you do when faced with the mind-numbing idea that you will have to spend the next several days not doing that which has fueled your life for the past seven months?

Sure, you can work out in the weight room and even take batting practice in the team’s inside cages, but you know it will not even come close to simulating that generator-blowing energy that a stadium full of crazed fans can create or that adrenaline rush of a two-out, 3-2 count with your man on third and one run down in the bottom of the eighth.  And even if it did, it wouldn’t count.

So what do you do?  When everything else seems like just watching the puddles slide into a lake over that blue tarp, but you can’t give up that the game isn’t over yet?