Baseball. America's game. We all know someone who has had the uncanny ability to memorize the name, position and stats of every player on their team of choice since they could hold a bat. I think there's a special gene for that. It's not in my code. Then, there are those whose only connection to baseball is hitting the stadium with their buddies for the pure enjoyment of hotdogs, beer and participating in the occasional wave. You know, the wave??? Now, those genes, well, I got those.
A couple of days ago, I overheard a two dads at a gas station talking about who they thought might make it to the World Series this year. That conversation brought to mind three things:
1. I haven't thought about the World Series since 1985, the year that the Kansas City Royals claimed victory. When 90% of the team thought wearing a mustache helped their game. When I felt like they were the most incredible winning team who represented the most incredible state of Kansas (every kid thinks their state is the best!)....even though they're technically a Missouri team (minor technicality). When my parents patiently endured the four hour journey to KC with all of us kids stuffed in our bronze station wagon just so we could watch "our team" play (and eat junk food, drink pop and whine about how hot it is.) When baseball seemed like it was more about the game than the paychecks and the endorsements. When players had normal names like Steve and George and Frank, not Coco Crisp or A-Rod. Seriously. Give me a break.
2. The Natural. Great baseball movie. Robert Redford. Love him. And, the Sandlot. Baseball classic. In our home there's required reading, and there's required watching. The Sandlot is required watching. Squints and Smalls are in everyone's neighborhood. You gotta see it, it's hilarious!
3. Baseball for my team ended over a month ago and I still haven't written anything or posted any pictures about them.
I may not enjoy watching major league baseball anymore, but I do love watching all the little hearts who play T-ball, D-Pitch and Pee-Wee's. They are the reason why baseball is still America's Game.
10 Things I Love About Baseball:
1. It brings families together. Living in a rural area, farmers are the most busy creatures alive during the summer months. Yet, I am amazed at how many dads left the equipment in the field to be at the games of their little men.
2. Seeing our family name on the boys' jerseys is a little slice of pride and joy. I also appreciate the fact that it helps me know which kid is mine - but we're not discussing practical matters here, or the fact that I need glasses, or that sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on mental focus and memory.
3. The umpires still grunt, even at the little kids' games. I've always thought that umpires have special powers. The power to intimidate. The power to be dramatic or suspenseful, lingering on the call. The power to pause and play the game. And, when they really give their best, even at at the little kids' games, I can see right through their oversized teddy bear braun and into their big, soft hearts.
4. Snacks. Need I say more? I loved snacks when I played ball (there was something wonderful about getting my own can of Shasta pop and a package of anything Little Debbie that made wearing jeans and polyester for a uniform in the 100 degree heat worth it).
5. Steve is a great coach. I always thought the kids whose dads coached were extra cool. I don't think my boys are extra cool, just extra blessed to have a dad who makes time for his kiddos and actually knows sports, which is a bonus. 'Cause coaching out of pure love is one thing, but coaching with love and skill is another. Wranglers and boots are optional. Way to go, Dad.
6. Grandparents come to watch. Grandparents are the best fans. Period. Steve's mom was incredibly generous and watched Charlie during the games so that I could cheer for the boys and snap a few pics.
7. They get to yell, hit things, get dirty, spit and burp without getting on my nerves, and I love it! For our boys, being home schooled means that in the beginning of the season, they don't always know all of the kids on their team. So, they are like the "mystery" kid. But, they are not afraid to jump right in and get to work, make friends and have fun. Sports have a way of bringing kids together. Teamwork is a beautiful thing.
8. The elderly come to watch. Many of them once watched their kids or grandkids play. And, even if the grandkids have graduated, they still come out to the ball fields in the evenings, cheer on the kids, munch on popcorn and mingle with the neighbors. They know something about community spirit that is special. We could all be coached by them in some way or another. They make being a part of the hometown crowd feel like there's no other place we'd rather be.
9. There is an "atmosphere" to the game. Sometimes it's serious, sometimes its humorous. For instance, why is it that only about half of the lights on the scoreboard usually work? It's so funny to sit in the stands and hear the hubub of debate over the score, "It's 8 to 3. No, man, it's 3 to 8." And, every once in a while someone will throw a meaningful look up at the score box, squinting through the sun, just to see if the score keeper is paying attention.
10. It brings back memories, for many of us, of our early baseball days. Reflections of the "good ol' days sprinkle down into stories being swapped among the parents. We nod in agreement, understanding that early baseball experiences often have common threads for those who played. For most of us, it felt like yesterday, being young, sweaty, sticky and so happy to be cheered on by a crowd for the first time. How we've grown into such big shoes. How thankful we are to know that our kids are now in the cleats, making their own memories and shining bright out on the dusty field, knowing that they are making us so very proud.