Friday, May 12, 2017


I don't recall when I started to hate baseball. Perhaps it was gym class when the horrid boys would criticize and hog the field. It's possible that being made to listen to games on the radio caused the thrill to leave. At some point in junior high I began to despise the sport. I watched my stepdad mow the lawn while listening to the game through headphones. My teenage disdain for anything adult-related helped seal the deal. It was a slow, boring game that I didn't like.

When I was in elementary school my family moved to a town that had neither friends nor family in it. Our first home was a townhouse with hardwood floors and 800 square feet of living space. Our part of the complex was built as a square at the end of a lane, with a parking lot filling the square. Sitting on the front porch, which faced south, we could see something like twenty doors. One of them had a family behind it that would prove to be friends.

The family consisted of a husband, a wife, and their two sons. The first summer we lived there, our days of school-free independence were marked by crossing the parking lot to be kept alive by the husband of that family.  Now as I reflect back, I don't know why he was available to watch his boys, plus us three girls, all summer long. Was he unemployed? On temporary disability from an injury? Did he work for the schools? Hmm.

Bruce (the husband/dad) gets credit for first teaching me baseball. He loved the Chicago Cubs, who were not the home team. Anytime the Cubs played, the TV was on. It felt like the Cubs played every single day of that summer. I quickly learned to love baseball. When we weren't watching the Cubs with Bruce, we were looking at his sons' baseball cards, or making fun of the sports cups they left lying around. Their front door should have been painted white with red stitching on it.

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we visited his old stomping grounds on the east coast. My father-in-law arranged a softball game while we were there. My job was to cheer for my man. They were a player short. I was recruited. No sports bra or baseball refresher course were included in my hiring contract. I'm sure I didn't spend the whole game at the plate, but that's all I can remember now. I couldn't hit a fair ball to save my skin. I begged my father-in-law to just call me out. He wouldn't. Toss, clink, sprint halfway to first, turn, walk back, pick up the bat; repeat, repeat, repeat. The horrid boys didn't verbally criticize but their patience wore visibly thin.

A few years later God gave us a little boy, Big N. The first sport he played was soccer. Ah, soccer. No making up games that were cancelled for weather, no sitting around picking at the grass. We all loved soccer. Then the Kansas City Royals made it to the World Series. We watched together. He got hooked. The Royals won the World Series. He fell in love. I tried my level best to dissuade him. It's boring, it's played in the hottest season, you have to make up missed games, and on and on. He was immovable.

So I waddled or dragged myself out to baseball diamonds over and over last summer. I had baby N in the midst of baseball season. There was a snack kerfuffle, it was blazing hot and Big N lost his hat. Baseball cards and sports cups litter my house.

My father-in-law brought us a documentary about baseball. In it, a surprisingly young Bob Costas explains that the slow pace is part of the charm of baseball. I had already figured that out. Being a soccer mom raises my blood pressure; being a baseball mom mellows it out. Big N and I watch clips on YouTube of amazing baseball plays, marveling together at the athleticism on display. He turns the living room into a baseball diamond and executes the most astounding unassisted triple plays you could ever imagine.

Last week I went on a solo road trip and listened to the Cubs game on the radio until I lost the station signal. Tonight I took my son to baseball practice and reveled in it. He encouraged his team mates, he played with the grass, he took counsel on adjusting his swing, he smeared dirt on himself, and he had the time of his life. I love how baseball brings out the best in my son. I like an excuse to get an hour and a half of fresh air three times per week. I love baseball again.

copyright (c) Elizabeth, Bug's Beef. All rights reserved.

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