Real Help for Real Living: The scariest day of my career at the Mission

by Rev. Tony Marciano

Two years ago the Charlotte Knights asked me to throw out the last ball of the last game of the season. I was terrified.

You see, I’m not an athlete – I’m a gear head. I can be watching a movie when a classic car comes on the silver screen and I find myself drooling over that 1941 Ford or a 1965 Mustang and miss the plot of the movie.

I’ve tried to be an athlete and failed miserably. In seventh grade I had to learn to survive gym class since I couldn’t throw, hit or catch a ball. During baseball season I stood in right field because there was little to no chance the ball would ever come in my direction. When the only “lefty” batter in gym class stepped up to the plate, I wandered my way over to left field.

Alex, a top batter from that side of the plate, hit a pop fly into right field. The ball went way up into the sky and when it hit the top of its zenith, all the jocks started screaming, “Who’s got it?”

Well, no one “got it.” I didn’t “got it,” I wasn’t anywhere near the ball. I was in left field, standing where I was “safe” from a ball coming in my direction. I was avoiding the embarrassment of attempting to catch a ball.

The ball came down, hitting the ground with a “thump” (think of a Charlie Brown cartoon where no one catches the ball).  The jocks shouted, “We need someone to cover right field.”  I always volunteered. I knew there was only 10 minutes left in gym class and the likelihood of Alex getting back up to bat was practically nil. I was safe. No one in class realized I did that three times a week for four weeks when we played baseball (doesn’t say much about my high school graduating class).

In second grade, I can remember standing along the fence as we chose sides for kickball. A good day was when I was chosen next to last. But I can remember those days when I was picked last. One captain looked at me and then looked at the other captain and said, “Do you want Marciano?  I don’t want him. You take him.”

Regardless of who took me, there was no sense of being wanted or a part of the team. Being picked last is a horrible place to be.

There is a Scripture verse that says, “Before the foundation of the world, God chose us.” I marveled when I read that. I can still see myself at age 8, second grade, standing at the fence, wearing a black and white sweater my Aunt Lucy knit for me. While I looked great in the sweater, it didn’t help me throw a kickball.

I would still be picked last. No one wanted me. Yet God says, “I’ll take Marciano. I know he can’t throw a ball, hit a ball, kick a ball or do anything with a ball. But I don’t care. I still want him. I’ll take him.”

Getting back to the Charlotte Knights, I practiced and practiced and practiced. When my wife saw me practice, she gasped and said, “I didn’t realize how bad you were.”

That fateful day came. I was the last of 6 pitchers. The catcher came 10 feet off home plate and each pitcher was allowed to step 10 feet off the pitcher’s mound. The little kids did great; so did the two adults before me.

Finally, I stepped up to the plate. There was a “hush” over the crowd. Women swooned, men cried (give me a break – I love being overdramatic). I looked at the catcher, signaled my throw (which said, “if it comes near you, try to catch it”) and threw the ball. He had to stand up and lean to the left in order to catch my pitch. By some miracle, it landed in his glove. Will I ever do that again?  Not on your life.

I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well my friend.

Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission and a regular South Charlotte Weekly columnist. He is available to speak to your group. Call 704-334-4635, ext. 213, to schedule him.

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