You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. ~Jim Bouton, Ball Four, 1970
Now that baseball season's in full swing (get it?) and thanks to our batting cage I can hear bat crackin' nearly all the time, I pause to consider the impact of the game on our family.
Jakob and I are engaged in a battle of wills. I'm only winning because he doesn't have a steady job yet. See, he wants lights around the batting cage so he can hit 24/7. I stand firm.
Half our family is obsessed with baseball.
Twenty-five percent enjoys it recreationally.
The final twenty-five percent pays no attention to it at all.
Baseball's not bad as an obsession. After all, it's part of the American Dream along with hot dogs and apple pie.
Some of my favorite movies are baseball-themed. Who can forget Tom Hanks facial expression as he utters his great line, "There's no crying in baseball!" in A League of Their Own? Or Costner's perfect game in For the Love of the Game? The great quirky romance in Fever Pitch?The steamy sexiness in Bull Durham?
My natal family didn't love baseball, so the first time I experienced it was when I was a teen and smitten with a ball player. Wearing the bold number "9" on his back even then, he was fun to watch. Passionate. Excellent. Obstinate.
He tells a story of his sister's wedding day. It starts with, "Can you believe she'd get married on a Saturday in June?" Hmmmm. I wonder if he knows that June is the most popular month for weddings and that most of them occur on Saturdays.
His sister's wedding approaches, and the family realizes there's a conflict. Joe is scheduled to play baseball the same day. His parents forbid him to play. He finds a way. Unfortunately, he slides into second base, scraping his thigh. It bleeds through the tuxedo for the rest of the day.
Having head the story many times, I knew better than to schedule any important dates during the Season. Our wedding was in January and our babies born in the off-season, Adam in November and Jakob in February.
I confess that I love the way half our family loves baseball.
I love it because it's clean and wholesome and affirming to play ball.
I love it because they do it together.
I love it because it makes them come alive.
Joe has a t-shirt he bought the first year he played at the Fort Myers Roy Hobbs World Series. It says, "You don't stop playing because you get old; you get old because you stop playing."
Joe stopped for a few years after we had our second baby. He got old in a hurry. He wore a perpetual worried frown. He wanted to be a great provider and protector, so he took his job seriously. It showed.
Then Adam started to play sports. His chosen sport, not baseball, needed coaches. Since I was at the registration, I was happy to check the box on the form that said "A parent would like to coach."
Hahaha. That'll teach ya to send me to registration nights!
So Joe coached soccer, a game he didn't know. He developed his knowledge with the kids and when they exceeded his ability he became a referee and basketball coach. He started to sub for players on the old guys' baseball league. When the kids exceeded his coaching ability in basketball, his eyes roamed. They lit on baseball. There they stayed.
He loves coaching baseball as much as he loves playing it. He's so amazing with the boys he coaches. He sees their failures as a failure on his own part: "I must not have explained that right." One of my favorite things to watch is when he "discusses" a finer point of the game or rules with opposing coaches or umpires. He knows his baseball. I enjoy how he shares his knowledge without being rude or pushy -- but also without backing down. He's teaching everyone something in those moments.
He teaches umpires about baseball.
He teaches opposing coaching staff about baseball
He teaches his boys to stand up for what's right with respect and honor.
He's an impressive man.
Impressive enough that he invites his fourteen-year-old players to watch him. He takes their criticism with a grin and a wink and the aside, "They must be learnin' something!"
Oh, and, WOW, can that ole number nine crack that bat!