Playing Catch as Ceremony by Jim Nolan
Somebody who didn’t know baseball might have seen the five of us out there and call it “Guys throwing baseballs on the beach.” But you might call somebody nailing a Mozart Sonata “Guy plunking keys”, or a Lakota Pipe Ceremony “Dudes going out for a smoke” too.
You would have missed everything.
Somebody said “Men learn best in ceremonial space.” Baseball, to the true devotee, is sacramental, iconic, a ceremony of deep bonding. Thus the resounding chord struck by Field of Dreams.
We were two generations, creating ley lines between and among us–brothers, nephews, uncles, sons-in-law, fathers-in-law. We all knew and felt the deeper levels of this shared experience, but of course it would not be correct to name it. Your job in this moment is just to fire the hardball across the sands so your Brother can catch it. That’s it.
There’s the occasional downward swing of the mitt, tagging the sliding ghost runner out at the plate, the occasional “YES!!” at a leaping snag of an almost-errant throw.
We all know this ceremony will bond us forever, and will never really be forgotten. Yet if anyone were to ask “What did you guys do today?”, we would say, because it is far too complicated to try to explain it if you don’t already “get” it– “We played catch on the beach.”