Sunday, April 13, 2008

Going to the Game

Throughout life, there are things that fathers and sons do together that signify manhood. It isn’t smoking cigars or playing poker or any other so called manly thing we do. It is going to a ball game.

My first game was back in 1972 around the time of my 5th birthday. My dad took me to see the White Sox in a double header vs. Cleveland on a Sunday afternoon. We sat in the upper deck and I think the sox won both games. The sun was shinning and I had crackerjacks as I tried to follow the action on the field from the upper deck. I didn’t really know anything about the game considering I was only 5 at the time but I was there with my dad…and that’s all that mattered.

I think I only went to two major league ball games with my dad but I’ve already been to six with my son. The first one was two years ago in Tampa while we were down the on vacation. It was the home opener and with their fan base, tickets were easy to get. The Devil Rays played the O’s and my son fell asleep some time in the late innings of the game. That year we also saw games at Wrigley Field, US Cellular and Miller Park in Milwaukee. Traveling is fun but traveling to see ball games is about as good as it gets in my opinion and we saw eight different teams play that year.

One of the things I always looked forward to was trying to catch a foul ball. It really didn’t have to be a foul…it could be a ball flipped to me by the first baseman or an outfielder. But getting that ball is like making a connection with that player. He doesn’t know you but for that one instant you are together in a moment that has a profound affect on the one receiving the ball. To me, as a child, ball players were my god. I looked to them as roll models and emulated them because I wanted to be them.

My son got his first ball when we were at Wrigley Field. The Cubs sucked that year so getting a good seat wasn’t very hard. We where six rows behind the visitors dugout and found three balls come our way that day. Each of the kids walked away with their first ball and everyone was full of smiles. To this day I still have not gotten a ball for my self.

I still like to go to a game whenever possible so when the opportunity came along on Friday I jumped on the chance. You see, we had some guests from Japan who wanted to go to a game while they were here so I was more then happy to be the host. I convinced my boss that my son should go and we were on our way.

The weather sucked. It was in the low 40s and a drizzle came down the whole time we drove to the ballpark. As we walked to the stadium the rain came down a little harder and I feared a cancellation but in the end the game start only a few minutes late. We stopped and bought some hot dogs and beverages of choice on the way to our seats and settled in for a cold night at the ball game.

At some point during the night people started to leave. The bars where open and much more inviting to many of the fair weather fans so my son and I moved down closer to the dugout. Between inning he would stand there waiting for a player to flip up a ball or for a coach to see him and do the same. Time and time again he came back to sit by me and waited for his next chance. Eventually the game ended and we went back up to the dugout in hopes of getting the ball we cherished. The kids were standing around, five or six of them ranging from 6-9 years old. Suddenly a ball comes from within the dugout bouncing on the roof and lands in a seat right behind my son. The throng of children converge on the spot as little hands search for the prize. After a few seconds a hand comes out of the pile with the ball and my son walks away empty handed. The I notice the person walking away with the ball is a 30 something year old guy. He walked up behind the kids and literally took the ball out of one of the hands of a young boy.

What kind of grown man would take away something like this from a child? The group of fathers start giving this guy crap. It takes a real man to take a ball away from a 6 year old kid. Anyway, I told the guy how classy I thought he was and he made the funniest comment ever. You see, this guy was from Detroit and he says” I’m glad I don’t live in Chicago” Now I have nothing against Michigan people in general but I’ve been to Detroit and to say that it is the arm pit of America gives arm pits a bad name.

So as we walk back up the stairs, dejected and alone, I thought about the moment I had with my son. I was there for him and even though we didn’t get the prize, we had already won the night by being there together.

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