The Baseball Games I Never Thought I’d Miss
I never thought I would miss sitting on cold metal bleachers at my son’s baseball games; the sound of the ball making contact with the bat; the muffled music blaring from the nearby concession stand. “What inning are we in?” I would often ask the nearest parent sitting near me, thinking (hoping) the game would soon be over. While it was fun (and sometimes stressful) watching Daniel on the pitcher’s mound, or behind his catcher’s mask, or talking to the first base ump as he awaited the next play, on the inside I was a complainer. I was bored. I was cold. I was warm. I was hungry. Doing my best not to run out of small talk topics with the other parents. Realizing I forgot an extra water. What time did I need to pick my daughter Emily up from swim practice? I was constantly thinking up excuses to leave.
After Daniel aged out of Little League last year, he joined a travel team based out of Stamford. This season, we drive a half-hour each way for his practices, and an hour to his home games in Yorktown, New York. Luckily, I have a carpool. Two other local moms who share the driving responsibilities. I have only made it to one game, during a weekend tournament up in North Branford. “You might want to bring a chair,” my husband texted me. “Not much bleacher space.” It’s now the end of May. To date, I haven’t met the other parents on the team. I haven’t sat on cold metal bleachers.
Since Daniel played T-Ball in Kindergarten, I have spent my entire spring at baseball fields; but now, aside from driving him to practice and catching an occasional game an hour away, I get to spend my spring evenings and weekends elsewhere—at home, getting work done, folding a load of laundry, catching up on a book or a favorite TV show, or an occasional dinner or movie out with my husband or a friend. But I miss it: the smell of burnt hotdogs, the sound of spectator cheers, the coldness of the aluminum benches. The love of the game. Unexpectedly, though, it’s not these things I miss the most. And it’s not the inning ending double play or the post-game team line up, players shaking hands and saying “good game” before running the bases.
Recently, I drove by the Little League fields, a mere half-mile from my home. The fields were empty—the freshly cut grass, the raked infield dirt, the white base lines. And the empty dugouts and bleachers. As I slowed down, I felt the emptiness of the fields, realizing for the first time what I had missed most of all. The people. The parents, especially the ones I had never really known before the start of the season. Similar to the boys being a team, in their matching uniforms and baseball hats, we, as spectators, were our own crew, bound together by our baseball enthusiast offspring.
I miss the mom who brought jumbo Stew Leonard’s fruit platters to Sunday morning games. The same mom who brought extra blankets on cold evenings. And the dad who took professional quality photos of the players and then emailed them to the rest of us. Making sure to include each player, even those sitting on the bench. If only I had small talk about the kids—the upcoming school dance, the recent field trip, the Spanish project due. The community-type of conversation. “Peters Market is now carrying homemade honey,” I want to tell the mom who always brought her recyclable bags filled with organic snacks. “The iced coffee at The Lunch Box is delicious,” I want to share with the dad who craved caffeine mid-game. “Can you believe the price of gas in Weston Center?” I want to ask, curious whether there’s another local option to fill up.
I even miss the father who yelled out to his son throughout the game, “Head up, get in ready position, keep your eye on the ball.” I miss them all. Every season brought a new team, a new mix of kids, a new group of parent fans.
“He has a terrible baseball birthday. You couldn’t hold on a couple of days longer?” my husband joked after I induced a week before my scheduled due date. Daniel, born on April 28th, just three days shy of the Little League cut off date, weighed in at 9 pounds 8 ounces. I think he was ready for the world.
Now, when I drive by the fields I look over, catching a glimpse of the diamonds filled with kids in uniforms, with two groups of parents on their respective sides huddled on the metal bleachers. I crack my window open to catch a moment of baseball noise: a cheer, a hit, an “I got it” from the outfielder. I keep driving and wonder. Will I look back on these coveted childhood years pining for boredom at a field or thirst on a sideline?
I take note of Daniel’s baseball pants, scrunched up in a ball on the passenger seat floor, newly decorated with grass stains and dirt. Should I turn the car around, pull into the familiar field parking lot and head over to the parent spectators? Maybe someone on those bleachers will know about the newest stain remover. Instead, I drive ahead, glancing at the fields in my rearview mirror.