The wisdom, growth and pride that is learned from watching and waiting.
It is no surprise to me that baseball is considered America's favorite pastime. There's nothing like going to your favorite ballpark, watching your team in the wind, rain, cold or sun with parents and children alike, sharing conversations and sunflower seeds, cheering and sometimes jeering while sitting or standing in your designated spot to view a game. My favorite ballparks have revolved around wherever my kids have played. Baseball has consumed a large part of spring for our entire family, and yet, it has been one of the biggest highlights leading into summer. Our baseball ritual consisting of nightly practices with games tucked in between, all began 15 years ago and abruptly came to an end after watching and waiting for my son to play his very last ball game, from behind the fence.
Lots of things happen on each side of a baseball fence. On the diamond, I've witnessed boys turn into men, character building, integrity, empathy, compassion, and children trusting and counting on each other. For me personally, it's been a time to slow down and appreciate what's going on in front of me. Inhaling the gift of being present and exhaling all the other distractions gave me an opportunity to make friendships that I may not have otherwise made, gain patience, grace, and understanding for my children and others. I also learned that it represents something different to every parent and child. A baseball and bat has brought so much more to our lives than just a game, especially for my husband.
If you've ever met my husband or have been to my house, you'll learn rather quickly that Ron has an affinity for baseball and the children playing it. After our sons and daughters began upgrading from coaches pitch and t-ball levels, he thought it would be a good idea to recreate a baseball field, with a backstop, batting cage and manicured diamond, at our house! It has been affirmed by multiple sources that when searching my home on google earth you can see a baseball field! If that didn't prove his commitment to the players enough, in the winter months, he created an indoor batting cage at his own business. That's not crazy at all! It walks the fine line of impressive and nuts! Fortunately, we have the spaces to do this, however, I'm still not sure if that is a valid reason to do it! Being able to coach his kids, and others that we pretend are ours has affected him deeply. His involvement with them as a coach, parent and friend has been one of the most fulfilling things he's ever done. Observing the fondness he has for all of the players has been a gift.
Some Things Never Change
My daughters and younger son would eventually find other passions that suited them better. But my oldest son stayed the course with baseball and the group of friends he had been playing with since little league. The camaraderie amongst them hasn't lessened over the years but instead has gotten stronger. And even when frustrations flare up after a bad game, they are the same group of boys that have shared memories in classrooms, birthday parties, prom, vacations and now graduation.
Even during their little league days, where we would find most of them more interested in picking the grass in the outfield than catching a ball, baseball was a place where they would always come together in the end, win or lose, teammate or rival, most often at the Snack Shack. It was a place built on common ground, where kids could be kids.
One of the many joys of watching them move on from little league to high school ball was that they were no longer individual teams competing against each other but rather one unit, that would win and lose together. Year after year, I would see these young boys transforming from teammates to friends. Boys that might never have been in the same classes or social circles would have a unique bond that would last forever, all because of baseball. It didn't matter if they were infield or outfield, DH, pitcher or catcher, they lifted up and supported each other when it counted.
What I'll Miss
There are many things that I will miss about watching my son play baseball, the most obvious is just watching him. This quiet, shy boy put himself out there when it wasn't easy to do, only to overcome his insecurities and build the confidence needed for him to move forward in life as a young man.
I will also miss watching the other children that have become part of our family along with their parents. I will miss the bitter cold evenings bundled up and the silence and stillness in the air that was produced at an intense game.
I will miss watching my youngest daughter organize snack bags, baking for the players and seeing who will fill the empty seat in my extra chair.
I will miss phrases like, "Good eye," "You got this," "Go Raiders," "C' mon Stinky," and "Let's go Sam."
I will miss watching my son tap his bat at the plate before every swing and watching his father on the sidelines look on with pride and a full heart.
Watching and waiting is normally not at the top of my list of favorite things to do. However, there is something cathartic about watching the people you love to step out of their comfort zone and wait to see the rewards they gain from it. This is how baseball started and ended for our family.
To All My Baseball Families Past & Present, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the years with me behind the fence!