My First Baseball Team: Big Brothers

Craig Dunning, Richard Cox, and David Cox at the field before their game, Summer 1973.

Craig Dunning, Richard Cox, and David Cox (l to r) at the field before their game, Summer 1973.

My introduction to baseball came in the Summer of 1973. I was seven and intended to spend a few weeks with my cousins Richard and Donna in Oklahoma City. Richard invited me to play on his baseball team, the Big Brothers of OKC, whose season had already begun.

The first hurdle was to get permission from my parents, which went fairly smoothly because they expected that I would not want to stick with it and would come back home to Dallas before too long. The second hurdle was my age. I was seven, but the team was for nine-year-olds. My aunt Linda said, “we’ll just tell them that you are nine and you can play.” That’s what we did just before a game, and I was on the team without even the first practice. The coach went and got a uniform out of his car and told me to get dressed.

Craig Dunning in Big Brothers uniform, Oklahoma City, Summer 1973

Craig Dunning in Big Brothers uniform, Oklahoma City, Summer 1973.

I had not played baseball before, so there was a lot to learn. In my first game, I was placed in right field and was told to throw the ball back and forth with the center fielder. Since this was all new, I really had no idea how to throw nor, more importantly in this case, how to catch a ball. I threw the ball to the center fielder; he caught it and threw it back to me. As the ball approached, I stuck my glove in the air for my first catch. However, the ball descended right past my outstretched hand and hit me squarely in the right eye. I cried, my eye immediately swelled up, and I had my first baseball scar: a big black shiner.

At my first at bat, I watched four balls go by, earning a free pass. The umpire said, “Ball four, take your base.” I dropped my bat and proudly ran down to third base. I was as raw as they come. I’m sure the spectators laughed as my coach re-directed me across the field to first base, but I didn’t care.

I ended up staying in OKC the whole summer. Each week when my mom called to check on me, she would ask if I was ready to come home. To her surprise (and disappointment, I think) I always said, “No, I still have baseball.” In the Summer of 1973 I fell in love with baseball, which set the course of my childhood. Every spring and summer from then on, was dedicated to baseball.

Craig receives his first trophy, Summer 1973.

Craig receives his first trophy, Summer 1973.

 

 

Our Engagement

Craig and Colleen, standing on the Charles Bridge (Prague, Czech Republic) after he asked her to marry him, 2 NOV 1998.

Craig and Colleen, standing on the Charles Bridge (Prague, Czech Republic) after he asked her to marry him, 2 NOV 1998.

On November 2, 1998, which was 1 year, 10 months, and 9 days after we met at Chinese Kitchen in Odessa, Texas, Colleen and I were engaged on the Charles Bridge in Prague. That morning I flew into Prague, and Colleen, who was working in Czech Republic at the time, met me at the airport. However, before crossing passport control, I went into the restroom to make the final preparations for my plan.

Because I intended to pop the question on the Charles Bridge, and I didn’t know how she would respond, I tied the ring to my belt with fishing line. Although I didn’t expect her to jump up and down shouting “YEEEESSSSSSS!” I didn’t want to take the risk that in her excitement she might unintentionally toss the ring into the river or drop it and it fall through a drain. It was hard enough to get the ring in hand, I didn’t want to see it sink to the bottom of the Vltava River. Although it took a few minutes to get the fishing line rolled up properly and the ring stored in my pocket in a way that would keep me from accidentally pulling it out at the wrong time, the feeling of security was worth the time.

Before taking the bus to Brno, the city in which Colleen worked and lived, we spent the rest of the morning and afternoon touring Prague. We did all the touristy stuff. But most of all, we simply enjoyed spending time together.

When the time seemed right, I suggested we walk across the bridge. And, when we got to a place on the bridge that seemed right, I slowed down and drew Colleen’s attention, got down on one knee, extended the ring toward her, and asked, “Will you marry me?” She immediately and calmly said, “Yes.”

Time seemed to stand still for a bit as a few people looked on, smiling at what they had witnessed: A man and woman offering and accepting to spend the rest of their lives with each other.

I’m so happy she said, “Yes.”

The birth of my firstborn

Here’s how I described the birth experience of my firstborn, Grace Anne Dunning:

“I stood next to the midwife near the foot of my wife’s delivery bed. I was taking it all in, doing my best to encourage my lovely bride to finish the task that was hers – but mostly standing there numb trying to take it all in. While “our” labor and delivery was a relatively quick process start to finish, time seemed to drag on. As each stage came and went the midwife seemed more excited than I was, but I was taking it all in with great amazement and wonder. Finally, our daughter’s head crowned and suddenly there she was! It seemed quicker than the flash of a flashbulb; and in one motion the midwife caught the baby and delivered her into my wife’s arms.

I hope that one moment in time, a flashbulb of a moment, will never leave my memory. I pray that any future sickness, injury or old age will be kind to me, allowing me to treasure that sweet and amazing moment until my last breath.”

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Craig Dunning holding his firstborn, Grace, for the first time (08 JAN 2004).

Happy Birthday, Colleen

Colleen, Grace, and Zach making Christmas cookies, December 20, 2015.

Colleen, Grace, and Zach making Christmas cookies, December 20, 2015.

Today is a special day because it is Colleen’s birthday. There are many things I appreciate about my wife, but today, I want to focus on one.

I’ve been blessed with a wife who loves being a mother and homemaker. She loves family time and doing things together, whether that is playing a board game or Uno, hide-and-go-seek or treasure hunt, or walking through the neighborhood or the park. She’ll even agree to go to Six Flags together.

Proverbs 31:27-29 describe Colleen well:

She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”

Happy Birthday, Bear. I love you!

A Special Day

January 8 will always be a special day for me. My life was changed in inestimable ways!

Happy Birthday, Punk! I love you.

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From the Time Capsule: In the video below, you are one of the “stars” in a commercial for a ladies tea at our church in Jerusalem. You were 5 years old.

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