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A boy, a baseball and a wedding

If you’ll pardon a small excursion into the personal, Auburn’s baseball team is going to have to play the first two games of a crucial weekend series without me. I’ll not be paying attention to what recruits say about Auburn or the latest story on Cam Newton.

Senior Editor Phillip Marshall

I’ll spend this very special weekend in Houston, where Bennett Davis Marshall II and sweet and lovely Karen Martinez will exchange wedding vows Saturday night.

And I’ll remember.

It is July 17, 1980. I am barely a month into my tenure as sports editor of The Montgomery Advertiser. Teresa, seven months pregnant, has stayed behind in Decatur with our 2-year-old daughter because she didn’t want to change doctors. Early in the morning, I get a call that legendary Auburn coach Shug Jordan has succumbed to leukemia. Soon, I get another call. My wife has gone into labor.

Before I can get to Decatur General Hospital, my first son is born. He’s named after his late grandfather, the best man I ever knew.

As I look back, he isn’t a grown man who will before long have PhD from Rice University to go with two degrees from Auburn University.

He’s 5 years old, wearing a cap with a bill that is too long for his head and playing t-ball in the South Montgomery Dixie Youth League. I worry that if a big-for-his-age 7-year old hits a line drive his way, it’ll hit him in the head before he knows it’s coming.

He’s 9 years old and playing YMCA football. His team is playing for the coveted opportunity to play at Cramton Bowl, but they have to win. They stop their opponent on the goal line in the final seconds and appear to have won. But Ben Marshall is offsides. The opponents get another play, and they win the game. He collapses to his knees, the tears flowing. An hour or so later he’s at home playing Nintendo and all is well.

He’s 11 years old and a catcher of some ability. He plays for his dad, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do. His dad is hitting infield and says something to him. He turns to listen and a throw, coming hard in from the infield, hits him flush in the side of his face. His dad is afraid he’s hurt and tells him to sit down. He won’t have it. He keeps on going, the blood red imprint of the baseball’s stitches on his cheek.

He’s a teenager and decides he’s had enough of school and becomes a brick mason instead of a college student. His mom and dad don’t like it, but they don’t have a vote. Four years later, he decides he wants to go to college.

It’s 2008, and his mom and dad are sitting at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. He walks across the stage and gets his degree from Dr. Ed Richardson. He has graduated summa cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering. His dad can’t hold back the tears. Then there is a master’s degree in physics, proving once and for all that he is his mother’s son.

We’ll be proud Saturday night, proud of our son and the man he has become, proud of his older sister and younger brother who will be there to share his joy, and proud of the daughter-in-law who has already endeared herself to the family whose name she will soon share.

I wouldn’t presume to impart any great wisdom on him, other than to urge him to avoid the mistakes his father made. I think my message to him and to his bride will be that time rushes by in such a hurry, to treasure every hour of every day and to be grateful for the gift of love.

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