How a simple game of catch can bring people together

26 Mar

In today’s fast-paced, put-your-head-down-and-keep-plowing-forward world, we often forget to take the time to slow down and really connect with friends and family, or any of the people around us. One Webster man has found an unusual, surprisingly simple, and very effective, way to do that.

Several weeks ago, on the first day of March, Webster resident Dave Tinnes embarked on a personal challenge: for the following 30 days, he would endeavor to play a game of catch with … somebody. It didn’t matter who, he would just do it at least once a day, for 30 straight days.

Naturally, when you first hear about the idea, you’d immediately think its purpose would be to just have fun, get a little exercise, maybe enjoy the outdoors a bit. Those are all great goals, but Dave had a much more important one in mind: to forge connections with as many people as possible.

Not only has he achieved that goal, he didn’t realize just how incredibly life-changing the challenge would be.

Dave Tinnes’ 30-day catch story begins in 2017 when he was asked to help chaperone a school trip to a Mets game for Wayne Central High School, where he’s a special education teacher. Not being a baseball fan himself (“I thought it was a boring sport,” he remembers), he was happy to go along for the ride but didn’t expect to get much out of the experience.

Surrounded by students and colleagues who helped him learn the nuances of the game and understand the deep significance baseball has had in their lives, Dave Tinnes fell in love with the sport that night, and a brand new Mets fan was born.

Sometime the following year, Dave came across an online article headlined, “Man commits to playing catch for a year.” It was written about Ethan Bryan, who had begun a personal challenge to play catch with someone every day for 365 days. Through a daily blog and eventually a book, Bryan chronicled the life-changing experience he had, forging personal connections with more than 500 people across ten states.

Through their shared love of baseball, Dave and Bryan became good friends. Then, earlier this year, Bryan told him about a new program he was introducing, called “30-Day Catch,” in which he was encouraging people to embark on their own 30-day challenge.

Dave immediately signed up and began his 30 days on March 1. His very first game of catch was with his son, followed that week by some students, a professional colleague and an old friend.

From day one, he started finding those personal connections he was looking for. Underscored by the calming soundtrack of a ball hitting mitts, conversations ranged all over the map: childhood stories, memories of parents now gone, the shared love of sports. There was a lot of laughing, a lot of listening, a lot of healing.

Each catch can last anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour. But each one is unique and significant, each one a different story to be told.

Dave realized that only two days into the challenge, when he wrote on his Facebook page, “Each catch session is very different from one another, even though the action, motion, etc. is so repetitious/similar while playing catch. It’s the people, their unique personalities, etc., that make each catch a delight to my soul.”

When I sat down to interview Dave for this blog, he was 18 days into his journey. He’d already played more than two dozen games of catch with all kinds of partners: his children, his friends, his students, perfect strangers, young kids and senior citizens. He’d played catch indoors and outdoors, in gymnasiums, parks, muddy fields, a loading dock, city streets, and along the wintry lakeshore. He even played catch in Cooperstown with the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

But one game of catch really stands out, and epitomizes what the 30-day challenge is about. That was the day, 12 days into the 30-day challenge, that Dave played “catch” with his wife’s 101-year old grandmother.

“Grandma” had never worn a baseball mitt, so Dave first helped her slide her small hand into his daughter’s mitt.

I pulled my chair right up to hers and sat there with my glove on. I told her all about the challenge, showed her my “30 days” baseball and all the pictures of my catch partners so far in this challenge journey, and discussed baseball in general. I told her about my family’s journeys in visiting four MLB ballparks last season, and how we hope to hit all 30. …She asked me questions about why I love baseball so much, how far do you stand from each other while playing catch, if it’s 1:1, or if more people can join in, and more…

When it came time to do the catch she took the ball and put it in my mitt. I took the ball and put it in her mitt. We did that six or seven times.

And that was their game of catch.

Dave has known Grandma for 23 years, and has connected with her about many heartfelt things. But, he said, “the catch with her gave me the chance to share something I’m passionate about, beyond my faith and family.”

The lesson here is pretty simple. We “know” so many people in our lives, some for many, many years, others more recently met. But if you think about it, with most of these people, we’ve never really taken the time to listen to their stories and really learn more about them. Perhaps we just need an excuse to take that time, even if that excuse is to spend 20 minutes throwing a ball back and forth.

Dave’s first 30 days are almost over. During these last few weeks, he’s had so many people ask to play catch with him that he’s often played two or three times a day. He even travels with a bag stuffed with various baseball mitts (including a child’s size and left-handed one) and a few balls, just in in case he meets someone — even a stranger — in his daily travels who’d like to play.

When I talked with him, he already had more than 50 people signed up for future games. So he’s definitely going to be playing catch for more than 30 days.

You’re welcome to join him as well. On the first day of March, the first day of his challenge, Dave Tinnes posted on his Facebook page:

“Today is day 1 of my 30 days catch journey. If you’re interested in playing catch, let me know. You don’t need to love baseball, be a good athlete, etc. This journey is all about connecting, sharing time together talking, listening and growing relationships. I’d love to connect with you…”

That invitation is still open. If you’d like to schedule a time to play catch with Dave, drop him an email at

And in case you’re wondering, of course we played catch after the interview, right outside the Webster Public Library.

* * *

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(posted 3/26/2023)

6 Responses to “How a simple game of catch can bring people together”

  1. DPD March 28, 2023 at 3:10 pm #

    Glad you two didn’t beak a window; Adam would have been … unhappy. I wonder if you guys used the newly reclaimed space in front – the former forest/swamp/eyesore that is now open grass. Nice article, and a great idea, especially with warmer weather. A simple game, and real human connection – complete with conversation, and no electronic paraphernalia in sight. By extension, the game could be passing a football, throwing a Frisbee, or kicking a soccer ball. Fresh air, conversation, sunshine, friendship … sounds dangerously revolutionary. Congratulations Dave on your the challenge, and Missy for the article.

    • websterontheweb March 29, 2023 at 2:34 pm #

      It was that new muddy field out front where we chose to play our game. And I love your ideas about how to extend the game. Your insights always make me smile.

  2. Lora March 29, 2023 at 11:58 am #

    Such a positive and uplifting story.

  3. Chris Huff March 29, 2023 at 11:58 am #

    This is an outstanding man who has touched many many lives. Great story! It brightened my day.

    • websterontheweb March 29, 2023 at 2:33 pm #

      Thanks so much Chris! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I agree that Dave is a special person who is making the world better.

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