If you pay attention to your children, they’ll teach you things you thought you already knew or that you forgot a long time ago. My 9-year-old daughter started her second ever season of softball this past week. Watching her fierce blonde pony-tail scoop up grounders at third base on a field ravaged by unseasonable melted snow and ice, I understood why I love baseball (and its off-shoot, softball) so much. And it has nothing to do with multi-million dollar contracts and steroids.
My relationship with baseball has mirrored mine with women. Like my first marriage, my affair with baseball went through a divorce, after the major league baseball’s players’ strike/lockout of 1994. But like my second chance at love a few years ago, I found my way back to baseball.
My youngest daughter’s interest in softball thrills me. I played baseball from the age of 5 to 15 in Little League and high school. I covered baseball as a journalist in college and a few years in my twenties. Being a writer, my romance with the game is similar to the men who’ve written about it for over a century. I love the smell of spring grass, the crack of wooden bats, the spray of Georgia clay off the cleats of sliding players and the hope each season symbolizes, professionally and recreationally. It makes me happy and hopeful, two things I rarely am, when my little girl crouches down in the batter’s box waiting for a pitch.
When I get angry because a pro player I think should’ve gone in the Hall of Fame, doesn’t, or some rule change irks me, or my hometown Atlanta Braves don’t make the World Series, yet again, or one of them leaves for more money, I look around my house for my daughter’s glove, ball, bat, cleats, and orange stirrup socks. The real reason why love the game is inside her enthusiasm. She has her third practice tonight. Until she holds out for an extra million bucks a year, I’ll appreciate the sport in all the right ways and use that hope to float on.