Springfield, MO: So, Here’s the Catch

Ethan Bryan is a youth pastor, writer, and lover of baseball. This year he has determined to play catch everyday. He has received national attention for this endeavor, and has collected many stories along the way. We asked Ethan to share those stories with us, and agreed, as long as we played catch with him. We were “Day #282” of playing. Below is the blog post he wrote about his experience at Creekside.

“Hold my cane, please,” Ken asked Martha as he placed his hand in the new Wilson glove. While he crossed to the opposite side of the room, Bethany cleared the chairs to create a good throwing lane.

“You know, it’s probably been about 40 years since I threw a ball,” he said with a smile and tossed the ball my direction. I caught the ball and tossed it back.

“Wanna see my knuckleball?”

“Absolutely,” I replied.

“How do you hold a knuckleball?” Martha asked.

I demonstrated a couple of different ways and tossed one back to Ken which landed perfectly in the pocket of his mitt.

Creekside at Elfindale is an independent living retirement community. Bethany is the activities director at Creekside and asked if I’d be interested in sharing stories and playing catch. I love the opportunity to make new friends through storytelling and catch-playing. I prepared stories and brought a bag full of gloves hoping someone would be willing to play catch with me afterwards.

Mark, a Cardinals’ fan, was the first to show up, wearing a UCM Mules shirt and promptly sitting in the front row. Ken and Martha and Vikki joined shortly. I shared a little about this crazy catch-playing quest and how it exemplifies some of the basic tenets of what it means to live a good story.

Taking a risk.

Overcoming obstacles.

Never giving up and embodying hope.

Making new friends.

And then it was time for catch.

At first, we took turns playing catch in pairs. Of course, some throws were dropped. “Don’t worry,” Bethany said, “it’s just a dining facility below us. No one will care.” Ken was my first partner, followed by Bethany who commented that it was her first time wearing a glove. Mark used two hands at all time as Bethany started stacking chairs. Vikki declined a catch-playing invitation, but supported us in spirit.

Soon, all of us spread out in the activities room. For a while, a pattern developed, much like tossing the ball around the horn. The longer we tossed the ball, the fewer drops happened. Ken was the first to break the around-the-horn pattern, tossing it back to Martha immediately after she threw it to him. In a game resembling Pepper, the ball went here and there and no windows were broken.

Martha made loops with her hand, much like a Globetrotter palming a basketball, before deciding where to throw the ball. Ken caught one slightly errant throw one-handed before it hit the windows. There was genuine joy and laughter as catch and conversation continued and I knew I was in the midst of something sacred. I glanced at the clock behind Ken’s head and noticed we had been tossing the ball together for more than 20 minutes and I had no idea how to stop.

Time truly flies when you’re having fun.

I’m convinced that playing catch keeps us young.

Or, in the words of Satchel Paige, “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”

Submitted by Bethany Burrows, Life Enrichment Coordinator

Creekside at Elfindale, Springfield, MO