My son loves baseball. He loves it so much in fact that I feel remiss as a mother and a blogger for not having mentioned this fact in detail here before. It is an enormous, entirely captivating, thoroughly significant part of his life, his thinking, his playing, his focus, his every day purpose.
You think I’m exaggerating.
My six year old has a battered, dog eared, ripped and taped coffee table book about ballparks that my mother gave him for his last birthday. It is now in three pieces, it’s binding completely unraveled. And he reminds me that it is out of date. Where is the new Yankee Stadium? Where is the new Nationals ballpark? When will they reprint it with the updates? I don’t know. He keeps paging through though, carefully organizing the pages that have slipped out, memorizing every picture and statistic.
Somehow, he has pilfered my father’s MLB.com login and password. And every morning, after spooning up his cereal and haphazardly pulling his uniform on, he runs over to the PC and checks last night’s scores. He watches replays. He pulls up teams. He checks old games and stats and player information. He calls me in to see a play. “Mom! Check out this walk off home run!”
In the backseat of my car, there are two copies of Sports Illustrated – worn, weary and coverless. But they have all of the 2010 MLB stats and player information. He reads them on his way home from school every single day.
We have a pitch-back positioned up against our backyard’s back woods and a home plate lying there in the grass. First base lies up against the fence of the empty house next door. (The fence is our “Green Monster”, the abandoned yard is our “Sandlot” – just replace the dog in the movie with snakes, rabbits and armadillos.) Second base is in front of my dining room window. Third base lies in front of the back porch. If he doesn’t have school, my six year old pulls open the slider and runs out to our backyard ball field before the sun has even peeked up over the trees. And then, one after the other, he throws tennis balls into the air and cracks them up over the house. Over and over and over. And after each hit, he talks and cheers and yells the play by play to himself as he rounds the bases. Over and over and over.
There is also a “Mommy base”, where my folding lounge chair is positioned in left field. My three year old always makes a stop there as he rounds the bases. You know, just for a quick snuggle and chatty recap about the game in play. My six year old does not stop however. There is no “Mommy base” in the MLB.
On weekend evenings, he begs. “Just one more inning, Mommy. Just one more. Please.” And so our nights are filled with MLB baseball, no matter the team. Repetitive pitches, fouls, outs, man scratching, commentators mentioning historic facts as filler, spitting, swinging, staring, nothing happens. He remains focused while my husband and I wander away to make dinner. And suddenly there is a double play, the inning is over. He jumps up and down and races around the house and gives my husband and I high fives while we simmer veggies on the stove. What just happened? He is happy to reenact it on the hard wood floor – dives, catches, slides, it’s the most exciting thing in the whole wide world.
Do you know where the oldest ballpark in the country is? Do you know the entire line-up for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox? Do you know the oldest team in the country? Do you know who won the first world series? I don’t. But my son does.
Do you know how much space a full length MLB game takes up on a DVR? He records games every day. And we quietly erase them a few days after that.
Guess where he’s celebrating his 7th birthday? Predictably, in the parking lot of the Trop before a Rays game. Baseball cupcakes, friends with their gloves, sneaking down to the edge of the field to watch warm ups, climbing up to nosebleed seats to watch the game, Lets Go Rays!
We just finished our Little League season where he played on a local coach pitch team. Proudly. He would practice before his games and perfect his slides on the dining room floor. He remained stoically “baseball ready” in the outfield. He dove and rolled for any catch that he could, certainly re-enacting some highlight or another. When ready to hit, he would twirl his bat before the pitch – also something he had obviously seen somewhere before. In the dugout he clung to the fence, staring, watching, jumping in place nervously. He counted the plays, disagreed with calls (later, while being tucked into bed), slid into bases, dove, swung, ran, tagged and tried so so hard. He wasn’t the best player and he wasn’t the squeakiest wheel – but he adored every single moment.
I just signed him up from baseball summer camp. And once school is back in session, there will be Fall Ball too. Again.
It’s a whole new world for me. And I want to be entirely into it with him – but I tapped out of sports about as fast as it took a well aimed kickball to knock the glasses off my wee first grade face many decades ago. I didn’t know the difference between a hit and a run until this Little League season. And is there a difference between a “double” and a “double play”? I’m pretty sure there is.
But I’m trying. And adoring his passion and irrepressible glee for it. And screaming “Way to go baby!!!” from behind the chain link fence at the ball park. And searching for foul balls in our snake infested “Sandlot”. And pitching (no matter how often I’m labeled a “belly itcher” rather than an actual pitcher). And counting up his gear and shaking dirt out of his cleats and washing his uniform and slowing the cart down through the baseball aisle every single time. And sitting through inning after inning, with him snuggled at my side, hanging on his translated play by play.
I’m really trying. And loving it. And always always baseball ready for my wonderful boy.