Raising a Baseball Fan

It began in 1977. A 4-year-old boy walked into Memorial Stadium with his baseball-obsessed aunt to see a legend at work — an aging Michelangelo with a glove and catlike reflexes.

“Look down at third base,” the woman said to the boy. “That’s the greatest third baseman to ever play the game.”

The boy squinted from his seats in the upper deck and burned an image into his memory that exists to this day. I still remember Baltimore Orioles star Brooks Robinson, in the final season of his Hall of Fame career, patrolling third base. From there, baseball became an obsession for me. Like most boys I played ball (not very well), collected baseball cards compulsively and studied statistics like a science kid studies the periodic table. Attending games, listening to ballgames and talking baseball became my passion.

In many ways, it is still is.

DSC_0697 (Our view on Opening Day.)

I feel the rhythm of the baseball season in my blood — as the weather warms I anticipate spring training, fantasizing about the Orioles enjoying a dream season that ends with the players hoisting the World Series trophy. During the spring and summer months I merely exist during the day until night comes and I can tune in to hear the familiar and soothing voices of the team’s play-by-play announcers. Each game is a mini-drama enacted just for me on my smartphone (formally, a radio to the under-30 crowd). Next to spending time with my wife and children, it is one of the joys of my life.

That’s why it was important for me to take my almost 4-year-old to his first Orioles’ Opening Day this week. As a kid, attending Opening Day was a yearly ritual. I tucked my Orioles t-shirt and hat into my book bag and bragged to all my friends that I would be leaving school early that day to head to the ballpark. The jealousy was palpable. There are few sights more beautiful than a stadium filled to capacity in a massive show of civic pride on Opening Day. The grass is greener, the hot dogs are fresher and the energy more crisp than any other time, save for the postseason.

I wanted my oldest to begin to share that experience with me and my father this year. As our Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 2-1, my son stayed engaged until closer Tommy Hunter whizzed strike three past Jackie Bradley Junior to earn the save. My son even said that he didn’t want to go to the bathroom so he “wouldn’t miss any of the game.” He might have simply been enjoying a day with his family. He might have also begun to feel a kinship with our national pastime.

For me, baseball served as a link for my dad and I, a conduit to communication that didn’t always come easily. Baseball was a way for us to spend time together talking about the game, living the roller coaster of a baseball season and ultimately building a bond that would transcend sports.

Will my son like baseball? Will he learn to do math — calculating batting averages and earned run averages — like I did? Will he imitate his favorite players batting stances — Eddie Murray, Rod Carew, Pete Rose — like I did? WIll he make lifelong friends through a shared passion for baseball like I did? I cannot possibly know that now. But I do know I will give him every opportunity to enjoy the game as I do.

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The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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Comments

  1. I’m really tired of telling you this is my favorite article of yours ever, but, here we are again.

    As I said to you online, family is the best; family is life. Sports are a blast; a passion. You marry the two perfectly, in writing and life. Well done.

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