When we moved into our house, four years ago, our son was getting ready to turn five. He was completely infatuated with Batman. Because we're the most awesome parents ever, we decorated his new room in a bat cave motif complete with a life size wall sticker of the caped crusader and a bat logo over his bed. Now, with his ninth birthday approaching this week fictional super heroes have lost their appeal. He'd rather have a room that's more grown-up. Something cool and mature. You know...Star Wars.
As we become adults we stop noticing who our heroes are. Those that inspire and uplift us. It becomes rare that we name those influencers, both large and small. In our children, however, it is easy to see the evolution they go through. From super heroes and cartoon characters to family members, teachers and members of our community. Kids show their adoration through mimicing, collecting, and devotion of their artwork and allowances.
Whenever his uncle comes home from Afghanistan, my son greets him dressed in his own set of "official" camouflage fatigues. Every care package we send over seas during Uncle John's deployment gets a scenic crayon picture complete with an American flag waving atop the mountains. At the ripe old age of eight, he may not know how to put into words that he's proud, but he know's how to show it.
The newest influence in my son's life is one I've become quite impressed with too. This spring was our first season of baseball. Quite a switch from juggling soccer balls, but an enjoyable one since my husband and I know a lot more about swinging a bat then scoring a goal.
We were convinced that our little slugger could benefit from a baseball camp this summer. In the fall he'll be moving up to an older league that could be intimidating if he didn't have a little more coaching. He wasn't sure about attending a camp, it was a little out of his comfort zone. With a little of Mom's gentle sales persuasion tactics...okay, maybe there was a deal made involving some Legos, he agreed to go.
The camp we chose was with the Woodstock River Bandits, our local Valley League team. The Valley League is known as "The Gateway to the Majors", and college players come from all over the country to spend their summer playing ball in the Shenandoah Valley.
For one week campers spent three hours a day working on drills and games to improve their baseball skills. Sounds pretty standard, right? What made the week great, was that the camp was run by the River Bandits coaches and players. What made it exceptional, was the devotion and heart those players put in to the camp. They didn't just show up to put in their time. The Bandits were enthusiastic about sharing their love of baseball with those kids. They went out of their way to make sure every child was included and made to feel like a winner. Best of all the campers walked away with new friends to look up to.
My son loved baseball before, but now he leaves and breathes it. Especially River Bandits baseball. At the end of camp all of the players signed his baseball. It couldn't be more precious if it was made of gold. He wants to put it on a stand with a picture we took of him and his favorite player, #18 Taylor Rakes.
The very next game we attended after camp, my son was sure to take along some of his money to buy a River Bandits hat. He had to dust off a few cobwebs first, his money box never gets cracked open. To him it was worth it though, to have a hat just like the team.
During the game one of my little girls and her friend chased down some foul balls and wanted to get them signed. The opposing team's bullpen had been coarse and foul mouthed whenever we passed by, a bit intimidating for tiny 6-year-old girls. By comparison the River Bandits were happy to see their young fans and jumped to accommodate our request for autographs, chatting up my bashful girls.
Maybe I caught them at the right time, but I never heard any foul language or bad attitudes, and we were down quite a few runs. Certainly during camp there was nothing but positivity in their speech and actions. I'm very pleased with the players that the River Bandits organization has brought to our community this year. I'm even more pleased that my children are finding heroes that don't need capes.
Where will you find a hero that inspires you today?