In a perfect world everyone would not only have a passion, but also it would be one that he could pursue unfettered by limitations of funds or geography. Each of our four children have favorite activities but only our 7th grade son has a passion for something that is unmatched by everyone. That passion is baseball.
I remember calling Brian when our son was two years old, complaining that he was repeatedly hitting a pound sterling coin with a plastic recorder all over the house. Rather than being annoyed with him, Brian was thrilled at the kid’s eye-hand coordination.
Over time I refused to allow the girls to play any sport with the word “travel” attached to it. The summers were all about visiting friends in the UK or spending it with relatives. You know the expression, “never say never?” Our son became eligible for travel baseball the summer after fourth grade and we have never looked back.
When he was little, I watched a little boy walk onto the field, fully aware of everything going on around him. He would leap into the air with all of his might and sometimes the ball might even meet the mitt. When he struck out he never blamed the pitcher, the coach or the weather. He knew that he was the only one holding the bat at that moment and that even Jeter has an off day.
Now I see a young man, tall and strong, who walks on the field with a determination that is so opposite to his normally reserved self. These days his fearlessness in catching the ball often makes me nervous as he dives with abandon or leaps backward. It has always been easy for me to tell his sisters and brother how proud I am of them when the situation arises but this guy is not looking for compliments. He just wants me to be at all of his games, to give him a knowing nod when things go well and a silent squeeze when they don’t.
He and I talk often about the reality of sports in America in that very few get to play in college and even fewer in the big leagues. He knows my job is to keep him from pushing his body too far, and he respects that. My goal is that he can still play softball when he’s 55 because he didn’t do too much damage as a kid.
When he is playing baseball, though, the dreams take wings. Is it possible that this passion for baseball will take him farther than we can dare imagine? I have no idea. What I do know now is that his unbridled joy for the game is contagious. When I am in those stands, that joy is like a soft breeze that rises from the field to touch my face and remind me that these are the days to cherish.