Saturday, April 14, 2007
Given the icy temperature for the practice, it seemed funny to think of our young players as "the Boys of Summer," but there they were in their cleats and last year's uniforms taking fielding and baserunning practice.
Ever since he was a baby, Adam has been impervious to the cold. I was wearing two jackets, and was still a popscicle at the end of the practice. He was in a short-sleeved shirt, and seemed unaffected.
He wore his jersey from last year (Oakland A's), but his hat let his loyalties be known-- the Chicago Cubs.
Adam was born at Columbus Hospital, a now-shuttered hospital in Lincoln Park that was just a little over a mile from Wrigley Field.
As the day of his birth approached, I searched for the first words I'd say to my newborn child. I made my decision. The first time I ever saw him, in Columbus, the first time I ever picked him up, my hands shaking (I'd never even picked up a baby this young before) and whispered to him:
"Remember, son: the Cubs are bums!"
He didn't listen. After a brief flirtation with basketball as a toddler, he became obsessesed with baseball in general, and the Chicago Cubs in particular. When he was little, he'd play whiffleball in the backyard as long as I would let him. He'll still play catch until my arm hurts too much to continue.
When he was only 6 or 7 years, he first stated those infamous Cubs-related words:
"Dad-- I think we're going to have to wait until next year."
Assuming the Cubs do not win a World Series this year-- a pretty good bet-- next year's season, the 2008 season, will mark a century of World Series drought for the North-siders.
In any event, at the end of the practice, our new coach gathered all the parents up for a short meeting. I liked what I heard.
He told us that his main goal for the season was to create good memories for the boys. He pointed out that probably only 10% of the boys playing in the league would even play high school baseball. Of those, only a fraction would play college ball. And of all of those, it's unlikely that even one would play in pro ball. This isn't a farm team for the majors. It's his hope, he said, that some day, years down the line, the boys will think back on what a fun time they had that season. Nothing more.
This is our fifth season in the league. We've seen a lot. Coaches who cheat, coaches who yell at kids, coaches who yell at umpires... all kinds of things. But most of them don't. Most of them are men and women have kids in the league, and it gives them a chance to share something with their kids, like our coach.
Frequently, the offenders end up in the top of the standings. Truth be told, Adam's never been on a team that finished higher than 3rd place. But every February, he double-checks that I signed him up for baseball. He just loves playing.
This afternoon, I'll endure a frigid practice, remembering that in a couple of months I'll be complaining about the heat, instead. Adam will work on his field, hitting and running. While I sit there, he'll pretend I'm not there-- he's with his boys.
It's funny, realizing that if you are successful as a parent, if you're doing your job, you make sure that they'll be able to deal with life without you eventually.
In a little over an hour, I'll be sitting out in the cold and enjoying every minute of it, realizing that the clock on his childhood is ticking.