This is baseball. It’s not just a game played between a set of white chalk lines on a field. It’s not just a player throwing a ball, or another swinging a bat. It’s history. It’s community. It’s family. It’s generations.
In 1987 I watched my first baseball game with my father. As a transplant to the area, my father had never watched a lot of baseball. But our local team was in the playoffs and he got swept up in the excitement like everyone else. Community. It was the first time I had ever watched a baseball game. Dad explained the rules. 3 strikes, 3 outs, 9 innings, top and bottom. We cheered and we rooted and we watched in dismay when our team lost, ending their season, and ours.
From that moment on, we were rabid fans of the game. But it wasn’t just about the game. It was about our mutual passion for our team. Our love for the game. It was about the time we spent together. Family.
Our team would make the playoffs, and even go to the World Series a couple of times. But every year they would come up just short of winning it all. And Dad was suddenly stricken with cancer, much, much too young.
In the final year of his life, our team would enter the playoffs one last time. I watched each game breathlessly, having fooled myself into believing that if our team could somehow just keep winning, then maybe Dad could hold on just a little longer. Maybe miracles would happen, both on the field and in our lives. Our team lost in the first round, 3 games to 1 that year. About a month later, Dad was gone. Our team had not been to the post season since.
Before he died, I asked my dad about his loyalty to our team. I asked him when it was that he became a true follower of our franchise, and a fan of the game. “I never watched baseball growing up,” he responded simply. “I just started getting into it because you liked it so much.” That was Dad. That is baseball.
Our team finally won the World Series this year. I wonder if the players have any idea what this means to so many of us. As I watched the game and those final victorious outs, I stood in the same room where I watched my first baseball game with Dad so many years ago, the same room in which he passed away. This time the tears were of joy.
Someday I will have children of my own. I will teach them about the game. I will teach them that there are 3 strikes, 3 outs, 9 innings, top and bottom. I will teach them to be loyal to their team, even when they lose. And they will learn as I did, that baseball is more than just a game. That it’s about communities and families and generations.
Thank you Dad, for the gift of baseball. And thank you baseball, for the gift of my father. I love you both.