5 For Friday: Why I Love Baseball


https://coachdaddyblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/love-baseball/
https://coachdaddyblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/love-baseball/

I love spring. Warm air and cool breezes. My annual death match with tree pollen.

And baseball. I love me some baseball.

As a Colorado Rockies fan, the hope of being just 1.5 games out of first place, and a summer of possibilities ahead is enough to sustain me. Spring is that time between my NCAA bracket’s implosion and the Rockies’ fall from postseason contention.

As a dad, some of my favorite moments have baseball undertones. We’re soccer players and soccer coaches in my family, but when the cleats come off, nothing beats a day at the ballpark.

Here are five great memories that hold hallowed ground in my Hall of Fame of Dad Moments.

A kid, ball cap pulled on tight, ponytail out back, mitt under arm, ready for a foul ball, a mascot visit and ice cream in a baseball hat … that’s what spring’s all about.

1. Ice cream in a baseball hat

Winston-Salem Warthogs

Elise’s first draw to a ballpark would be food. Surprised? The apple pie doesn’t fall far from the bakery. A man’s first baseball game as Dad comes with expectations:

  • Your child on your shoulders as the national anthem is sung
  • Handing your kid the foul ball dad just snagged with a nifty catch
  • Hitting the concession stand before the third inning (or is this just me?)

Elise was more focused: She wanted “ice cream, in a baseball hat.” We still get it every time we hit the ballpark. Just like a burger hot off the grill or cookies fresh out of the oven, there’s just something about ice cream in a baseball hat.

And we still have the hat with the angry warthog on it.

2. Sweetheart of the Game

Charleston RiverDogs

photo credit: Colorful Roses via photopin (license)
photo credit: Colorful Roses via photopin (license)

The RiverDogs are kings of promotion: Vasectomy giveaways, a record-setting day of zero attendance, and Pregnant Ladies Day, to which I took Lynn when Elise was still in utero. (So I guess the Warthogs game wasn’t technically Elise’s first game.)

Rather than enter the dizzy-bat contest, I slipped Elise’s name into the slot for “Sweetheart of the Game.” The winner gets a visit from Charlie T. RiverDog, bouquet of flowers in tow. When the mangy mascot made his way to our section, Elise gave that sweet gap-toothed 4-year-old smile I love.

Definitely better than a dizzy-bat race.

3. The Catch

Chattanooga Lookouts

photo credit: Opening Day 2007 - Astros via photopin (license)
photo credit: Opening Day 2007 – Astros via photopin (license)

My banner moments in athletics can fit in one of those ice cream baseball hats. With two scoops of ice cream in it.

Before we could even settle into our seats at Chattanooga’s AT&T stadium, the baseball gods called my number. Yeah, the same guy who made two errors in an inning in high school to help his team to an embarrassing forfeit. The dude who could grab a bat and stop a rally. Every.single.time.

This time, lightning struck in the form of a screaming foul ball, headed toward my still-settling-in family, including baby Grace on my left hip. I spun around with my gloved right hand and snagged the screaming liner, keeping baby upright and all the kidlets safe and sound.

Disclaimer: This section is based on a true story.

4. “How do you score a game, dad?”

Kannapolis Intimidators

photo credit: Opening Day 2007 - Astros via photopin (license)
photo credit: Opening Day 2007 – Astros via photopin (license)

The right of passage to teach your child to score a baseball game is not exclusively for boys.

I don’t remember how we wound up with a scorecard, but I’m glad we did. Not knowing how much interest Marie would show, I demonstrated the art of scoring a baseball game, a blend of universal symbols and personalized touches. By the second inning, Marie asked, “can I do it this time?”

The rest was beautiful, from Marie’s declaration that the next batter had reached the last two times with singles, to asking why they use a K to signify a strikeout. As we hunkered down to wait out a rain delay, Marie let the rain fall on her head and kept the scorecard dry under her jacket.

Nevermind we got to see young star Jose Fernandez pitch from the front row that day. Marie taking over for me on the scorecard was the winning hit.

5. A beer at the ballpark

Atlanta Braves

photo credit: Getcha Cold Beer! via photopin (license)
photo credit: Getcha Cold Beer! via photopin (license)

When I was a kid, my dad bought tickets to a major-league exhibition at Denver’s Mile High Stadium, between the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees. The Class AAA Denver Zephyrs were the only game in town, so this big-league matchup was the ticket.

I actually took photos of the tickets, I was so geeked to go.

Too young to hate the yankees yet, I pulled trading cards from my collection of both teams. I mentally traced the paces of autograph-seeking strategy.

As luck – and Colorado weather in April – would have it, the game got snowed out when a blizzard hit Denver the day before.

Dad did take me to a ballgame, though. We saw the Cubs’ Greg Maddux and Braves’ Tom Glavine duel on a steamy Sunday afternoon at old Fulton-County Stadium in Atlanta.

We saw Terry Pendleton’s rare ejection from a game, and sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” with famous Cubs announcer Harry Caray during the seventh-inning stretch.

(“He never does that for road games!” a Cubs fan in the row behind us said.)

The grass looked greener than on TV, the outfield much more vast. The crack of the bat reverberrated more crisply than I’d ever heard it. I watched every pitch and asked my dad questions and bought a Braves cap to always remember the day.

I also bought my dad a beer, for taking me. See, I was in college before I got to a baseball game with my pop. And it made me feel like a kid again.

It could have been the Cracker Jacks, or maybe the peanuts, or even the ice cream in a baseball hat. Something about a ballgame with your pop can make you feel like a kid, no matter how old you are.

I hope my sweethearts of the game always feel that way.

What memories do you have of baseball with your dad?

Or with your kids?

baseball quotes

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21 thoughts on “5 For Friday: Why I Love Baseball

  1. My favorite memory of baseball with my dad is that he picked me up in the middle of the day in second grade and took me to a doctor’s appointment. After I thought he was taking me back to school but instead he took me to a Cubs game. His 8th graders were going on a field trip there and he brought me (he was the principal). I felt like a celebrity at my first ever baseball game.

    1. I love that story! I took Grace out of school early on Halloween, but wondered if it was the right thing to do at the time. Know what? It’s always the right thing to take your kid out of school once in a while, isn’t it?

  2. My best memories of baseball were the intense debates I had with my stepfather over our rival fan loyalties to the Yankees versus Mets. The fall of 2000 was a pretty tense time in our family as you can well imagine. Nobody was more of a Mets fan than my stepfather which clearly explains my soft spot for them – despite the hat or jersey I wear or the bumper sticker on the back of my car.

    I have never been able to resist the ice cream in the baseball cap. Honestly, I think they should serve all ballpark food in baseball caps!

    And I love that Marie kept that scorecard under her jacket while she let the rain fall on her head, by the way.

    1. I bet you guys loved the subway series. What’d you say when Roger Clemens slung the bat at Mike Piazza?

      I’ve dreamed about having ballpark nachos in a baseball hat, but full-sized, not this kiddie noise.

      I wish we’d kept that scorecard. It got a bit wet, and tore. I did have to tell her just to put WW when she “Wasn’t Watching” and missed what a batter did!

      1. I think slaw is a southern thing, and one of my favorite things about the south – besides minor-league baseball in every other town – is the food. I don’t know what it is about a ballpark hot dog, but they’re delicious. Ballpark food could be another post altogether.

  3. Since I lived near Wrigley Field for quite some time, it was one of our favorite past times to catch a cubs game and sit in the far bleachers and hang… those games where few were present and we were bored and just needed something to do. We didn’t pay much attention to the game- we just liked hangin there and hitting the bars after. Harey Carey’s voice was familiar. And those days are now a long faded memory. Oh how I wish I could go back and do it again and this time with much more meaning and make it matter…

    1. I know its easy to start people-watching or chatting or doing anything in the world but watch the game, but that’s when something huge happens, like a home run or double-play or bang-bang play at the plate that comes without much warning. It reminds me of that scene in “Hunger Games” when no one watches Katniss demonstrate her archery skills. Except, Anthony Rizzo isn’t going to wheel around and fire a baseball at an apple in a pig’s mouth to get your attention.

      To see day baseball at Wrigley Field on WGN probably romanticized the whole concept for me when I was a kid. Then, as a grown-up, I got to know about D’Agostino’s Pizza in Wrigleyville, and the fantasy was complete.

      It’s not too late to go back and soak one in, you know. A little day baseball at Wrigley. I’ll live vicariously through you.

  4. I once bought myself a ticket to a ballgame and took the bus (3 hours one way) to see a real baseball game (as opposed to my Dad’s firefighter team…) for Father’s Day. I knew a couple of other people on the bus, but they didn’t sit with me. I figured I was doing the job of both parents so I should get to “celebrate” too!

  5. well I do appreciate the sentiment behind this, but up here of course it’s “the good ole hockey game”. Not that I don’t remember a few trips to see the Blue Jays battle the Red Sox, or one memorable game at Shea Stadium on a class trip. While the sport may be different, the milestones and memories remain the same. I just had Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman on my trading cards. And of course the dream was meeting Guy Lafleur; still helmetless after all these years. And it’s nice that not much has changed as I grow older…..while at a birthday party for a friend on Saturday night, I missed watching the good ole rivalry match up of Toronto Maple Leafs (dad) vs. the Montreal Canadiens (me) on the TV.
    Dad was so nice to text me each time the Leafs scored, and completed the nightly text updates with “Habs suck and will always suck.” when the Leafs kicked their butts all over the ice in the end. brought a tear to my eye it did. But I got him back and pulled his shirt over his head when I got back home. It’s really a beautiful sport that brings families together. LOL

    1. What an awesome comment. The similarities are there, just in sweaters and on ice. Probably there’s an Indian kid who feels this way about cricket out there. Ironically, I was supposed to see The Great One play here in Charlotte years ago, but the ice melted, and they canceled the game.

      I’m bad luck to exhibition games, apparently.

      How did you wind up a Habs fan while dad supports the Leafs? And how silly is the name Leafs? Not that Leaves would have been any better.

      I imagine somewhere between the lights going out when the sweater got pulled over your pop’s head and the impact of that first rib-shot, your dad must have been so proud of the daughter he’d raised.

      I know I would! “That’s my girl!”

  6. Parents were divorced when I was young, so all my early baseball memories were with my mom. We had season tickets for the Phillies for a few years until I met my husband, then he took over mom’s season ticket and we continued on for years. Not a bit Braves fan, as you can well imagine.

    These days I LOVE taking my girls to the ballpark to watch when the Phillies come to DC to play the Nationals.

    1. Gotta love a mom at the ballpark. Phillies – could be worse – we could be talking dodgers or giants here. Phillies, I can handle. As a braves hater, you feel me on this one.

      Do you wear your Phils hat to Nationals’ games? And what team do your girls root for?

  7. I was about 10 years old and loved baseball. all I wanted to do was play on little league – I didn’t want to play girl’s softball. Me and two other girls were the only ones in the entire league. It was my first chance at bat. The pitcher threw the ball and his aim wasn’t so great. the ball ricocheted off my finger. They thought I broke my finger (I didn’t). My dad FREAKED! He yelled at my mom that I was DONE with THIS $$$$ and that I was a F’ing Girl and he wasn’t going to let someone break my F’ing nose… I never played baseball again (more for spite although the only one who missed out was me)

    1. That’s an incredible story Hilary – and actually, those feelings that your dad spilled out that day, they live in every dad of a girl in sports. It’s not always easy to repress.

      But we must. It’s a different time, now, of course, but Grace had heard her share of “Stop her! She’s just a girl!” when she played co-ed soccer. And a little fire shoots up in me when I see someone take one of my girls down.

      But I stop, and watch. Because they can take pretty good care of themselves, it turns out. No dad required.

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