Take Me Out to the Ball Game by
100
(161 Stories)

Prompted By Big Fan

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Land Park Little League 1997
Cubs Farm Team

My house is across the street from a park with several baseball diamonds, and around the corner from a school whose baseball field and snack shack are the headquarters for the local Little League. Every year on opening day there is a parade that goes past my house, with pickup trucks full of screaming little boys in their uniforms, the trucks decorated with signs and streamers. First come the tiny t-ball teams, then the farm teams, the minors, and finally the majors, big boys in 6th and 7th grades, waving and yelling and throwing candy from the trucks for our little neighbor kids to retrieve.

I enjoyed this parade the most during the years that my son Ben played Little League. His first two years he was on the Cubs, followed by the Pirates, Blue Jays, and Mets. It was so cute to watch him and his teammates riding by on the truck, then follow them to the field for opening day ceremonies, including a pancake breakfast, and go to their first game of the season a little later in the day. Even after he aged out of Little League, I knew kids who played for the next several years, so it was fun to watch them go by.

I still watch the parade, because it is impossible not to. The noise of the kids assembling in the park generally wakes us up around 7:00. We have time to take showers and make coffee before the parade actually starts, and then we go out onto the front steps with our coffee mugs to watch. This year I noticed that there were one or two girls on almost every team, each one with her ponytail sticking out through the hole in the back of her cap. Neither of my daughters had any interest in playing baseball, since they both eschew any sport that involves balls flying at them, so it didn’t occur to me to be annoyed that Little League was only for boys. But almost twenty years later, it’s certainly nice to see that progress has been made and girls are an accepted part of all the teams.

When Ben was playing, I was baseball’s biggest fan. I went to all the games and screamed myself hoarse. I worked in the Snack Shack, selling drinks and dogs and the best french fries anywhere. I even paid attention to Major League baseball because it was important to Ben. His favorite player was Ken Griffey Junior, so we followed his team, the Seattle Mariners. In 1998, Ben’s third year playing Little League, there was the exciting home run race to beat Roger Maris’ record, with Griffey, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa all in contention. Griffey fell behind in August, much to Ben’s disappointment, but the other two actually did break the record, with McGwire ending the season at 70 home runs to Sosa’s 66.

While looking through Ben’s closet to check out his old baseball caps (and verify which teams he was on), I came across the ball from his first home run, hit that same year of 1998, which was ensconced in a little case to preserve it for posterity. I wonder if he even knows it is there.

In recent years I have not followed baseball at all, but I have to admit I got pretty excited by the 2016 World Series, not only because the Cubs had not won a Series for 108 years, but because I felt a loyalty to the team that Ben had been on for his first two years of Little League.

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Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: well written

Comments

  1. John Zussman says:

    Fandom through family! I admire that you developed a rooting interest in a sport just because someone you love, loved it.

    When my family (mostly from Detroit) gathers in Florida for Thanksgiving, there’s a ritual to gather on Thanksgiving afternoon to watch the Lions’ football game. I used to ignore that tradition—who wants to sit inside and watch a game involving two teams I don’t care about when a gorgeous beach is just steps away?—but finally I realized it was the best (actually only) way of relating to my male relatives.

    • Suzy says:

      John, I have always gotten involved in anything my kids cared about, although some activities (music, Girl Scouts)were more intrinsically interesting to me than others (baseball, soccer).

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Charming story, Suzy. I love the parade and pancake breakfast and becoming the super-involved mom, even selling concessions during the game. And following the home run contest and the Cubs big win last year. Sometimes, one can’t help but get caught up, when sports become current events.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks Betsy. Speaking of sports as current events, wasn’t the Cubs’ victory supposed to mean that Hillary would win the election?

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        If only! Wait…she DID win the popular vote, and I still believe that the Orange Monster is going to be impeached. I’m not a big believer in conspiracies, but this Russian thing looks really suspicious to me, not that we can go back and put Hillary in charge now. Now we’d be left with creepy Pence.

  3. Love the image of you guys standing out on your front porch watching the players’ parade. Talk about Americana! Also, very moving how you describe the transition from personal involvement via your son to a more abstract but still-engaging opening day ritual. And what a cool thing, watching pony tails appear through the backs of baseball caps! Brava! Nice personal essay!

  4. I love this story, love it. I think I have a ball Jackson caught on the fly in left field somewhere but not memorialized under glass. He went on to play water polo in high school and college, and those balls are too big for my “mom-drawer” full of treasures.

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