Lillian’s Game

Photo credit - Chad Martineau

Life is a curveball pitcher, with the occasional fastball and the sporadic knuckleball for kicks. A global pandemic is, in a way, one more inning in a game; a weird inning I admit, but an inning nevertheless. Twitter is also like life, in that it’s for the most part a seedy place, but, if you learn to navigate it, to take turns in the right corners, you will find not only decorum and camaradity, but enjoyment and even a new outlook if you’re so lucky.

At the beginning of the pandemic in my Twitter feed appeared Lillian Martineau, just because some baseball related person that I’m following liked one of her posts. She appeared (the tweet) as arbitrary as life, because of algorithms playing God as they were designed to do. The tweet in question showed a video of this girl pitching her heart out, immediately awesome, and was captioned with her asking for advice on how to improve her technique. This to me was hope in a sentence. Anyone that asks for advice has inherent hope, probably one of the purest qualities human beings exhibit. I liked it from the get go.

I was taken by her evident love for the game, something we have in common. I contacted her dad to see if I could learn a bit more about her story, to possibly write some words about it (the very words you’re reading right now). Lillian is part of a family of four with her dad Chad (a classically modern guy), her mom Katie and her younger sister Brooke (also a ballplayer). She was born in 2006 (damn the youth) and lives in Connecticut.

She picked up baseball when she moved to Harwinton due to the lack of softball little league teams in town. She’s a Mets fan. Due to the pandemic she had more time to practice the game, and started posting her progress in those uplifting videos in social media. All in all, a very 21st century American background, that, because of the time on my hands I myself was also encountering, made me think a lot about the kindnesses of baseball and the turns of time passing by. So I want to share some insights with Lillian, and hopefully share Lillian with some baseball adoring fans.

Baseball is a collection of tiny moments. Within a game, a season, an inning, an at bat or a lifetime, that’s just what it is, tiny moments that added together have meaning. Something particular that I have in common with Lillian is her relationship with her dad towards baseball. I will say to her that she should nurture that and never take it for granted. My dad passed the love for baseball to me. He’s 86 now and I live alone with him. I have to tell Lillian, even to this day, that his behaviour is more childish due to his age, we only talk about bananas related stuff (and I don’t mean crazy things, but literal bananas) and baseball. Watching a ballgame with my dad is as good as ice cream, it’s the activity where my soul has been shaped. I hope Lillian can have this too.

Life, like baseball, is all about timing. The distance from one base to another is exactly 90 feet, no more, no less. Precision in execution (and a bit of luck) is a must. I think the time for Lillian (and kids like her) is here. I was lucky enough to talk to someone ahead of her time about Lillian, coach Justine Siegal (@justinebaseball), the first female coach in professional baseball, who was kind enough to convey some words of experience for this piece. She said “I, like Lilli, dreamt of playing baseball at the highest level. I loved the game and it was my favorite thing to do. The older I got, the less opportunities I had. But my love for the game didn’t go away. I changed my dreams from playing to coaching, and went on to become the first woman to coach professional baseball. Lilli, and every other girl, should have the same opportunities to play baseball as the boys do. It’s not ok to limit a girl, just because she’s a girl. Her baseball dreams matter too.”

My take on the words of Ms. Siegal would be to tell Lillian and every kid like her, regardless of the situation, to power through. Keep on keeping on. Seize and savor the moment. I’m getting to that time where I’ll be asking myself “why am I soft in the middle now, when the rest of my life is so hard?” So it’s now your turn Lillian. Your turn to make your dreams come true and create the dreams of those behind you, and why not, the dreams of us who came before you. You and the kids like you will keep folks like my dad alive just by playing and enjoying baseball, so we need you. My message to everyone else would be to see Lillian’s baseball progress on social media, because it’s just good old fashioned baseball fun stuff. Make sure to follow Lillian @Lilli_Martineau.

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