Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

During my interview with Relyn, I promised that I would write about another of my passions in the spring time. Since its been in the news so much in the last few days, I decided to write about baseball today.

The very first baseball game I attended was when we first came to America in 1966. We happened to be in Aurora, Nebraska (why we were there is another post altogether) and someone in town suggested that we go to the Little League game that night. Now that I know what I know about baseball, I realize that Aurora had an amazing Little League baseball field complete with lights. Wrigley Field didn't get lights until 1988 for pete's sake!

I thought it was a peculiar game. A man sitting next to my father animatedly explained the rules throughout the game, but since I didn't speak any English yet and I sat too far away to ask my father any questions, I had to piece together the rules on my own.

Why are these boys, who were approximately my age, just standing around pumping their fists into their oversized gloves? What were they chattering about? To whom was it directed? One boy, standing on a mound of dirt was throwing the ball back and forth with a boy wearing an impossible amount of equipment. Then I saw boys taking turns trying to hit the ball with a stick. But why were people in the stands clapping or shouting when seemingly nothing happened? Then all of a sudden, out of the blue, the chattering boys ran to their bench and a new set of chatterers scattered onto the field. It was confounding.

Later that year, I had to play softball for gym class. Never before had I seen a ball that deliberately had no bounce. I have good eye-hand coordination, so my bat always made contact with the ball, but I was an 80-pound weakling and the thwack of the ball usually landed straight into the pitcher's glove or rolled directly to her feet. It didn't take long for my teammates to advise me not to swing so that maybe I could get a walk.

Years later, I was introduced to professional baseball by my roommate Ana when she took me to a San Francisco Giants game at Candlestick Park. Wisely, she chose one of the rare sunny days at The Stick to indoctrinate me.

Ana and her boyfriend Walter were major league Giants fanatics. Ana never missed a Giants game if she could help it. She either attended a game (back then tickets were cheap), watched it on tv, or listened to it on the radio. She also read the Sporting Green section of the San Francisco Chronicle every single day during baseball season.

Walter owned two official Giants uniforms, one home and one away. One of the uniforms had Terry Whitfield's number; I don't remember what the second one was. He brought a glove to every game, but he never caught a foul ball. He looked so official that little kids regularly asked for his autograph.

Slowly but surely, Ana taught me the rules and nuances of the game and I grew to love the game. We went to countless games and I learned to listen to games on the radio. I even started to go Giants games with other friends, without Ana. The Stick was usually brutally cold, and ofen windy. One time there was actually a cloud of fog inside the ballpark during a night game; it hovered like an extra player between short stop and second base. I wish I have a photograph of it but I have one firmly planted in my memory.

When I met my husband I was happy to learn that he loved baseball. He told me that he used to watch the Houston Astros as a young boy and his dad was his Little League coach. If it was bed time and the game was still on, his parents would allow him to listen to the game on his bedside radio because his grandmother told him that she was listening to the very same game in New Orleans.

When our son was younger we used the same ploy to lure him to bed during a Giants game. One time we forgot to turn off his radio before we went to bed and our son told us at breakfast that he was awakened at midnight by the cheer of the crowd. He said that he listened until the second inning because if J. T. Snow hit a home run, then he knew it was the same game.

He loves to play MLB Baseball on his Playstation. He has gained a broad knowledge of many of the major league players' batting averages and on-base percentages as a result of recruiting for his All-Star team. Ask him how fast any starting pitcher in the major league can pitch, he will know.

As much as I enjoy watching the Giants, there is nothing in the world more entertaining to me than to watch the Little League games my son played. The lessons he learned while playing these games were invaluable.

Our daughter is a die-hard Giants fan. When she was in middle school, she used to go to school extra early so that she could discuss the last game with the boys who followed baseball. At first the boys were leary. "Honestly, do you really love baseball, or are you just saying it?"

She was truly insulted. "Can you name the Giants line up?", she challenged.

"Can you?", they asked.

She rattled off the line-up, their field positions, and from which team they were acquired.

One of her teachers asked her this November, "What do you do during the off season?"

"I'm very sad", she pouted.

The other night she was telling me all the ins and outs of the Giants' negotiations with Manny Ramirez. "How do you know all these details?” I asked.

"MLBtraderumors.com has something new about Manny every single day."

I am grateful for any wholesome family activity that brings our family together. Baseball is one of these activities and I hope that the courts will keep in mind that many young, formative minds are following the debate on the use of banned substances. I hope my children will see that it does not pay to lie or take dangerous shortcuts. I hope we can bring wholesome back into baseball.


beth said...

I love that you love baseball !!!

{if you want to know how to get rid of the "frame" around that first baseball picture and your banner, let me know...it's easy}

Ruth said...

Baseball seems boring to people who don't understand it. Well it is boring sometimes. One of my fondest memories with my dad was watching Tiger baseball on TV. Year after year (after 1968 when they won the Series) they did badly, and Dad would complain. My mom would rail at him for being a disloyal fan. But he was a faithful fan, even if he complained.

I lost some interest in the game when people started playing wherever they got the biggest paycheck. There seemed no team loyalty any more, and I couldn't keep track of the players. But it's been fun to watch the Tigers these last few years again. Until they inevitably start losing each season.

Emily said...

I completely agree! My dad coached high school baseball when I was little and I played softball from age 8 through 18 every summer and in high school for the school in the spring and the city in the summer. I love it!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear beth,
I know baseball is not for everyone, but it's been very good for our family.

Thanks for your help on the "frame" ;)

Dear Ruth,
I think I was blessed that I was introduced to baseball when the Giants lost more games than they won. My expectations have been modest ever since and I jump for joy whenever they manage to win one. I never kept track of who was traded from where but I hear my kids discuss it with fervor. Good luck with the Tigers this season!

Dear Jemm,
My daughter plays softball for her high school now - it is a great sport!

Rebekah said...

My father was a great sports fan - every sport - so it seemed natural to marry someone with like passion. But his is more directed in that basefall is HIS game and over the years has become mine. My husband's family (more football fans than baseball) thought the game was slow and boring, but the nuances and multiple dramas going on through every game are fascinating. We have a wonderful minor league team in our town that has the heart of the long-ago game, and fills us with joy every year!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Rebekah,
When we were in New York last summer we had the chance to see the Mets, Yankees, and the Brooklyn Cyclones. It was fascinating to see the contrasts between these three games (I hope to do a post one day). I agree with you, the minor league games have that old-fashioned heart.

Relyn Lawson said...

I do love that you love baseball. I especially enjoyed the glimpse of the sport from your young eyes which had never seen the game. I connected to this post on so many levels that I'm not sure where to comment. My dad loved the Astros as a kid and used to beg to stay up late to listen. My husband, though, is a die hard Braves fan. I mean die hard. Like your daughter and the Giants. I, on the other hand, take a magazine or two to the ballgames when we go. What I love is people watching and the exciting moments: hits, errors, etc. Not a real fan - I know.

Little League is more my speed. One time I was at my nephew's game cheering like crazy. I saw him whisper to his coach and then come over to see me. He quietly said, "Aunt Relyn, you know you're cheering for the other team right?" Poor sweetie. I did know it. I just have to cheer for everybody.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Relyn,
It is soooo like you to cheer for both sides!

I respect that you go to the games even though you are not a fan. I don't mind when I see people with reading material at the games because it tells me that they really love the person they came with.

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