I owe great thanks to my dad and grandfather for the gift of … baseball. Now before you roll your eyes please hear me out. Baseball is something I shared with them, that I share with my family and that I know our daughter and son will share with their children. For us, as in A Field of Dreams “the one constant through all the years … has been baseball.”
It all started, fittingly enough, with a visit to one of the cathedrals of baseball, Boston’s Fenway Park. My father and grandfather took me to see my first game and, as magic would have it, I left with a foul ball. When you’re a kid it doesn’t matter that it was given to you by the person in front of you who actually caught it – it’s a major league baseball! And thus the gift was first unwrapped.
Through my youth I saw a number of games with them, be it in the stadiums of my grandfather’s beloved New York teams or minor league and spring training games with my dad, since we didn’t live in major league towns. I didn’t matter, I was hooked.
When it came time for ME to play baseball, my dad neither pushed nor held me back. He simply supported me and was there. I think often of the times that my dad would hit me fly balls in the street after dinner until it got dark. It didn’t seem to matter that I primarily played catcher so that skill was not key to my playing, it was just something special we enjoyed together.
When I got married, one of the first things my wife and I got for our first apartment was cable TV, not nearly as big then, because we had moved away from home and wanted to keep up with OUR team, the Braves. Summer nights watching the Superstation made us forget we didn’t have money for other entertainment (thanks, Ted Turner!).
Once we had our own family, baseball became a family activity. My weekly softball games were a family outing. Once our community got its own team, some of our best family time was spent with season tickets at the ballpark. Cheap seats maybe, but the important thing was being there for the games.
When my son decided he wanted to play baseball, I was pleased and proud that he wanted me there with him as a coach. Thus started a many-season chapter in our family book of baseball, him playing, me coaching, my wife often coming out of the bleachers to be team mom and our daughter keeping score. Our teams were seldom the best but my focus was on making sure each player learned and enjoyed baseball.
I am pleased that during these years we moved back near my grandparents and that some of the last times we had with my grandfather were at some of our games. I know he enjoyed both seeing his grandson coach and his great-grandson play, almost as much as we all enjoyed having him there to share it with us.
The fact that our kids are no longer kids hasn’t impacted this gift we share. Recently the family, now increased by one son-in-law, came together to go see our Braves play. While sitting there taking in my family as they enjoyed the game, I could not help but think back to that first game in Fenway Park, certain my grandfather was looking down and thinking the same thing.
You might wonder why I have a (years old) picture of myself with my son here when I am writing about my father and grandfather. I feel the greatest “thank you” I can give them is in the dad I became and my passing along of the gift they gave to me.
Happy Fathers Day!