A Boy's Life Full of Faith and Baseball

At age four, Austin Odette has a baseball fascination that will only deepen when he learns to read. His nursery school buddies already cock their heads, clueless about his chatter of statistical data that’s largely about the Texas Rangers.

A year from now, unless his kindergarten teacher is an avid baseball fan, she and Austin may have little to talk about.

A true baseball fan, Austin Odette meets his Texas Rangers hero, Josh Hamilton.

The lad can even pronounce “S-a-l-t-a-l-a-m-a-c-c-h-i-a,” knows he plays for the Boston Red Sox and that he’s a former Ranger.

He’s usually a day behind on scores and standings. Sadly, his bedtime coincides with the umpire’s “play ball!” cry.

After his “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayer, Austin reminds his folks to record the Rangers’ game. When he wakes, he sprints to the iPad to check scores; kisses for Mom and Dad come later. A while back, he pranced about, celebrating yet another Rangers’ win. Knowing the lad can’t read, his granddad asked how he could be so sure of a Ranger victory. “When the video shows high fives, handshakes, smiles and dog-piling, they win,” Austin reasoned.

He knows players’ names, numbers and positions, as well as gobs of stats about the Rangers and other American League teams as well.

T-ball may not hold his interest very long. He’s not much on any games commonly played by his age group.

Coloring – inside or outside the lines – is not for him. Next to baseball, he’s keen on playing with Rusty, the family’s Pomeranian that will reach its 18th birthday come December.

Austin’s mom, Alison, was horrified a few days ago. Realizing she hadn’t seen the pet wandering around the house, she looked under the bed.

He was there, in his usual sleeping spot. Noting his glassy eyes, rigid position and legs pointed skyward, she was certain he had gone to “doggy heaven.”

Tearfully, she mustered her courage, realizing that she must break the news to Austin. With him nestled tenderly in her lap, she geared up for the important teaching moment. She explained that God had called Rusty to heaven, where he already was playing with new doggy friends.

The youngster would have none of it.

“Rusty would never leave me; God will send him back.”

Alison wouldn’t budge, either, trying her best to prepare her son for life without Rusty.

They were at a stand-off, Mom insisting that God had called the pet to his new home, never to return. Austin was equally certain that God would send him back.

Sure enough, in a few minutes, Rusty wandered into the room, licking Austin’s hand.

“I told you he’d be back,” Mom.

The Odettes believe their pet experienced a mild stroke, causing him to appear lifeless. So Mom gets to shelve her “doggy heaven” teaching moment for another day.

Art Linkletter would have had a field day interviewing Austin, who would be a show-stopper.

Linkletter could also have had some great “back to school” TV fun with a fourth grader we heard about the other day.

Someone asked her if she looked forward to returning to school. “No, I’m going to hate fourth grade,” she blurted.

Her puzzled mom reminded the youngster that she had loved kindergarten, as well as first, second and third grades. Why would fourth be any different?

Well, the girl’s friend, a year older, had spoiled the broth.

“You’re going to hate fourth grade,” she assured. “School gets more complicated. For example, in third grade, short division comes out evenly, with no numbers left over. In fourth grade, long division has numbers left over. I noticed the ‘left-overs’ right off, vowing to myself that I wouldn’t mention them if the teacher didn’t. The next day, she did.”

I can identify with the fifth-grader’s struggle with mathematics. Vivid in my memory are rat-a-tat questions from Mrs. Byrd, my third grade teacher. In rapid fire order, she asked me, “Don, what’s two-tum-three, what’s two-tum-four, what’s two-tum-five?”

“You got me,” I answered. “I don’t even know what ‘tootum’ is.”

I join others in awe of Austin’s ease in pronouncing “S-a-l-t-a-m-a-l-a-c-c-h-i-a.” I wouldn’t make such an attempt, and trying to spell it is out of the question.

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. 

Don Newbury is author of a book filled with heart-warming humor: When the Porch Light’s on ...”

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