I had the pleasure of attending a high school baseball game on a bright, sunny, perfect spring day Monday.
A thousand miles away, at least 30 people had been killed in a brutal and bloody rampage at a college campus. A deranged gunman stalked the halls at Virginia Tech, taking the lives of dozens of sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends.
In Mannford, birds were singing and two teams of teenagers gathered to revel in America's greatest pastime - baseball. The day was set aside as Senior Day, meant to honor the three students, Matt Woodson, Jimmy Edwards, and Jason Alexander, who were playing their last regular season home game at Mannford. The three are classic examples of all-American kids. Bright, respectful, energetic, and with all the world in front of them.
In Virginia, kids not much older than those three met their tragic end in a senseless act of violence and cruelty and an incomprehensible disregard for the sanctity of life.
How many of those victims were on their high school baseball team? Theater? Science Club? FFA? Choir?
How many of those ever thought when they woke up on April 16 that they'd never see another sunrise, never talk to their parents again, never goof off with friends, and never get to have kids of their own? How many knew they'd never get to watch another baseball game?
The Mannford stands were filled with parents and friends, cheering on the Pirates and the opposing Bristow team. The parents of Woodson, Edwards, and Alexander had the honor of escorting their boys onto the diamond in the break between the doubleheader games. Arm in arm, parent and child walked.
I don't know if any of those parents had been watching the TV news, listening to radio, or monitoring the Internet throughout the day. I don't know if they knew about the tragedy. If they did, the day must surely have been especially poignant.
Watching their young men excel at America's game has got to do something for a parent. Knowing that their children are in the prime of their lives, and making memories that will last a lifetime, has got to feel good.
Hopefully, the parents savored that moment. Hopefully, they'll never forget that feeling.
In Blacksburg, Va., at least 30 parents found out that they'd never get to see their children again. Their kids were no longer going to call up between classes, shoot them e-mails, come home for laundry or summer break or Thanksgiving.
Those parents will never be able to escape the nightmare moment when they heard the awful news.
There's something about baseball. Something that cemented myself during Monday's game. James Earl Jones said it best in "Field of Dreams": It reminds of us of all that once was good in America.
Anyone who's ever picked up a glove, took in the scent of dirt and freshly mowed grass and horsehide knows what I'm talking about. See a game, watch a pitcher wind up, and you're transported instantly to another time and a place.
Maybe, if you're like me, it's your childhood and watching the Drillers take the field. Or even further back to when I was in Little League myself, dutifully manning right field.
Those times were good.
They belonged to an America that had sure footing, and to an America where things like Monday's Virginia shooting, or the Columbine massacre, or 9/11 or the Murrah Building bombing had never happened.
They belonged to a time of purity, simplicity, faith in your neighbor, fellow man, and relief pitcher. They belonged to an America that is now gone.
That America was gone with the sad April news.
All hope is not lost, though. In Mannford, on Monday night, kids got out and did what they loved to do. They played their pure sport under brilliant sunshine and a gentle breeze.
They reclaimed everything right with America.
They are what's right with America.