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Little boys and girls grow up imagining the big moment in their dream lives. For some that means hitting the game-winning home run, making the half-court shot as the buzzer sounds, playing solo in Carnegie Hall, recording a hit single or even delivering a moving speech in the halls of government.
They stand in back yards, on playgrounds, on a balcony above a hallway, in front of the mirrors in their bedrooms. Some may hold hair brushes for microphones, hit rocks with a chipped bat or bank in a shot on a wooden backboard attached to a barn.
Maybe you had such dreams, wildest images that danced through your heads after you had seen a memorable movie, read an inspiring book or watched your favorites perform their greatest talents.
Perhaps you closed your eyes and envisioned just the moment that would deliver you from the moribund to meteoric, render you famous and beloved, perhaps even make you rich.
Moments pass quickly in life, and we keep looking for that fantasy-come-true. But sometimes it seems as if we allow our opportunity to arrive and vanish vaperlike. Our preparation isn’t ready for our opportunity.
That’s the place in life where some of your friends and neighbors are living this week. They are standing in the spotlight of a life’s moment and trying to figure how to transform its shine into a full-fledged floodlight.
We speak first of the boys on the baseball team at Collins High School, playing in a State Tournament, sighting success for their school and penning at least a footnote in their lives.
We speak of a man, Brandon Brown, who on Monday accomplished something no person from Shelby County ever has accomplished, qualifying for the United States Open, the world’s most difficult golf tournament, one of 156 who earned his position, because the open is, well, open to all by allowing players to qualify to participate.
Those Titans and this titan are carrying our community’s banner into arenas seldom conceived.
Yes, high school teams from Shelby County have played in state baseball tournaments – SCHS even won in 1987 – but none from Collins has, and this group is three victories from a championship, having recorded a bit of an upset against Tates Creek on Monday night, 6-4.
Brown found his place in the Open through the most arduous ordeal. First, he survived Local Qualifying at Cardinal Club, and on Monday, in Sectional Qualifying, a 36-holes-in-one-day grinder, he rallied to take one of only two spots available at Springfield, Ohio, one of 11 such events across the country.
Collins went through a grueling gauntlet of its own, winning four of its previous five playoff games by one run, including an extra-inning survival in the first round of the district.
And now comes the next acts in these dramas, with the Titans playing Henderson County tonight in Lexington and Brown traveling next week to Ardmore, Pa., where he will be right there along with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and all the others at old Merion Golf Club, a place where Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan won championships.
Both the team and the golfer will anticipate this next step, fantasizing even greater success, but we hope that they pause and remember that this could be their final moment, their time at the plate in Yankee Stadium or certainly putting to win a major championship. This could be the Wikipedia entry in their human existences, and they should embrace that for what it is, not what it might be.
I remember a team that in the spring of 1968 thought it would play for a state baseball title. A runty freshman catcher donned the uniform and rode to Lexington. The great Terry Davis and Mike Case formed a formidable 1-2 pitching punch, and there was no reason their powerful right arms would not deliver the next victory and then the ultimate victory.
Case pitched first in an elimination game at the University of Kentucky’s field. He pitched well, but he didn’t pitch a shutout. Casey County won that day. A dream ended. The scrawny freshman catcher never came close to being on anything more than a district contender or a weekend softball pretender.
But that image, that field, those pitches and hits, that game is there in his memory. He scarcely darkened the dirt or worked up a sweat, but he was there. It was a moment. The moment. In all others in life, he would be but a spectator.
These Collins Titans and Brandon Brown aren’t spectators. They stand on the stage, in that spotlight and write new sentences that lead to paragraphs and ultimately could become chapters.
The ending may not be as they would script, but boy isn’t the story great to experience.