Sunday, June 17, 2007

Five Years

I was going to do this post, about a baseball game on a Father's Day five years ago, this morning. I'm glad I waited until after today's game.

Adam's ball game today was against the Cardinals, who are sponsored and coached by the sponsor of his first team five years ago, the Minor League Tigers.

It's funny, from season to season, seeing the other parents-- there's a bond you share, having spent a spring and summer sitting and watching your kids play ball. In subsequent years, they're usually on teams that play your kid's team, but there's a collegiality, between the parents, and frequently between the former teammates, that stays.

Four of us who were there today reminisced about a game on Father's Day five years ago-- a game where our boys surprised and amazed us. Five years later, we still all remember it like it was yesterday.

The boys on the Minor League Tigers were 8 and 9 years old (the leagues are divided by age). For many, including Adam, it was their first year-- and it showed. They were still learning a lot about hitting, fielding, base-running, pitching-- all the details of playing baseball. We did not win a lot of games. In fact, we only won 4 of 20 games that season.

On Father's Day, 2003, the Welles Park Minor League, which normally played most of its games, of course, at Chicago's Welles Park, played its games at Thillens Stadium, a beautiful little ballpark on Chicago's Northwest Side, as a Father's Day treat. We were up that day against the Minor League Yankees, who were tearing up the league that year; they finished the year in second place in the league. We came in fifth of seven. The dads were, frankly, expecting a drubbing for our boys. We didn't sweat it-- we knew our guys would still have a good time anyway, so we settled into the stands to have a good time watching our boys enjoy baseball on a beautiful June Chicago afternoon.

The game started out slowly, each team getting a few runs. Then things exploded-- but not how we expected. All of a sudden our guys started getting on base-- hits, walks and hit batsmen-- inning after inning, they scored run after run.

We fathers were slack-jawed. We weren't used to seeing our boys do this well. We kept turning to one another, kiddingly asking "Who are these guys? What have they done with our boys?"

When it was all over, the Tigers had won 20-4.

Someone had the foresight to pose a picture right after the game in front of the scoreboard while the score was still up-- the picture at the top of this post. (This was another treat-- we don't have scoreboards at Welles Park) You can see the joy in the boys' faces. Their smiles that were almost as big as the ones on our faces. It was the highlight of the season, and the best Father's Day present that we dads could have gotten that day.

It was funny, then, that at the Father's Day game today, there was a reunion of four of the players-- Adam, ironically, on the Yankees this time-- and four of the dads.

David had just begun to pitch that first season. I'd often sit with his dad, Doug, at the games. David, a southpaw, pitched with a concentration and intensity I rarely saw in that league. It's paid off, apparently-- he was their starting pitcher today, and turned in a fine performance.

I did chuckle and mention to his dad that I noticed that he no longer wears the everpresent sunglasses of five years ago.

Left-Fielder Chris, who fielded a ball Adam had slugged deep to rob him of a hit, was on that team too. His dad and I also frequently sat together as well when our sons were on the same team. At the Thillens game five years ago, Chris' dad, who is a fairly well-known singer, sang the National Anthem.

Daniel has become quite a good pitcher, but didn't pitch today while he recovered from a minor injury. He played first and third base quite well.

And of course, Adam.

Fortunately history didn't repeat; this time, the Yankees, now Adam's team, won, 19-7. And Adam had a great game. He went 2 for 4, with a couple of booming base hits. As I mentioned, he just missed a third hit when his former teammate Chris snagged a fly ball he'd hit. Adam also stole a base, and got an rbi and a run. For his performance, he was awarded a game ball.

The Yankees are now 7-4 for the season.

Talking to the other dads who were there that day five years ago, we remarked how fast five years has gone. It was funny, remembering our guys as little boys. Now, they are all teenagers. They're taller and slimmer. Their voices are lower and they are adolescents now. The level of play is infinitely better than that season five years ago.

As Adam and I walked home, I mused about a Father's Day; his great game and the time with him were the best present I could have gotten today. And then it hit me.

Five years from this day, he'll have just graduated from high school, and I'll be getting ready to send him off to college.


Bubs said...

Tempus fugit...

Why is it that baseball lends itself so well to reflection and nostalgia?

Great post.

cheer34 said...

I have the same positive experience with the cheer/football/lacrosse parents.

The kids still communicate and consider themselves friends, even tho they have not played together in 3-4 years. There is a bond that exists which will remain with them forever. A small happy community with a commonality that only teammates have.

Skylers Dad said...

It is great to hear the good stories of parents in the stands. I wish you could see a story like that on the evening news instead of two dads brawling on the field like idiots.

Nice memories JY!

Anonymous said...

help me throw Mt. Hood into the ocean!! I'll read this and commy-ent on it after work tonite.

Splotchy said...

Nifty post.

Go Tigers (five years ago)!
Go Yankees (now)!

Evil Spock said...

Never played organized sports as a child, and reading this made me wish I did.

On second thought, I did play CYO Basketball, though I was usually on the other end of the drubbing, guess I was repressing.

Hope you had a good Father's Day!

Natalie said...

They both sound like excellent Father's Day experiences. It's nice you could reunite with the other fathers.

Bubs said...

By the way, Johnny, you've been tagged.

GETkristiLOVE said...

That's a great photo - with the score up and all. You can see so much more in their faces besides joy.

Danny Tagalog said...

Yeah, I'm no baseball fan but the pics tell accompany your writing well:)

Danny Tagalog said...

Yeah, I'm no baseball fan but the pics tell accompany your writing well:)

Johnny Yen said...

Tempus fugit

It certainly does, doesn't it?

When Adam was very young, my father, who was really beginning to regret having not spent more time with my brothers and I when we were little, told me to always remember that you get them such a small small fraction of their lives-- to enjoy it. I remember his words every day.

Isn't it funny? It's hard to explain to someone who's not done it.

Skyler's Dad-
Thanks! That kind of behavior is not tolerated in that league.

At the first meeting of the year, our coach pointed out that most of these boys aren't even going to play high school baseball. The chances of even one going to the majors is infintesimal, he pointed out. His goal, he stated, is to create good memories for the boys. I liked him immediately-- and he's carried through with that promise.

Big Orange-
I did my part, but I missed the news last night. How did it go?


Evil Spock-
My father was anti-organized sports, but I did manage to play basketball in sixth grade-- the B-team. We won one game, but it made the whole season worth it-- that gives me an idea for a post.

Both were wonderful!

It's funny-- what I take for granted, being involved in our sons' life-- is not necessarily the case for a lot of kids, including the ones I teach.

I'm on it!

It's incredible, the camaraderie of the boys, years later. One boy, Braedon, who is in the front row, second from the left, has been on three of Adam's teams, including the first one and last year's. Earlier this year, when Adam's team and Braedon's team were playing a scrimmage game against one another. I caught them walking up to one another and giving each other the "knuckle high five." Their bond transcends even their current team rivalry.

Thank you!

Mob said...

Sounds like you had a great Father's Day sir!

Here's to many more!

Beth said...

What a great Father's Day story. I loved the years my brother played Little League baseball — the games and the camaraderie among the families.

GETkristiLOVE said...

That's awesome that this outlet teaches Adam more than good sportsmanship, but friendships of a different sort. I've had some great "on the field/court/ice" friendships that don't go beyond the field/court/ice. In fact, I was hit from behind on the ice just the other night and I heard this "sorry Kristi" and I realized it was a former teammate of mine. I just had to laugh. Sports are great.