Please know that I love reality TV and books and talking for hours with friends and walks on the beach (I guess) and margaritas and a crisp Pinot Grigio but there is absolutely nothing I love in this world that approaches how much my son loves baseball. Nothing.
He never says “I love baseball” but he breathes it. For most of the summer, he’s in baseball camp from 9 to 4 every day, and then twice a week, he plays in his league, from 5:30 to 8:30 in the evening. Last Wednesday when the game finally ended, he asked me if he could stay to throw a ball with a friend.
So let me re-set the stage for you. Camp for seven hours (I just counted that on my fingers. Anthony Weiner doesn’t know how many women he sexted, but he “thinks” it was three. I’m already better at math than he is. Although the number of women I’ve sexted is also three. But that’s just a coincidence. And besides, the day is young.) Anyway, camp for seven hours. Three hour game. I assume there was a lot of ball-throwing during those times. And yet he wants to stay longer to throw the ball. So I let him, of course, because isn’t that what you do when your kid loves something so much and you’ve already said “oh, come on, it’s so hot and I’m so exhausted” when he asked you the week before?
They threw the ball. It had gotten dark and the lights on the field were on. The soccer players were on the field, some six teams. Young men, in their late teens and some in their twenties. Another league looked to be made up of 30-somethings and beyond. My son and his friend stood on the sidelines and threw it to each other and I sat on the bleachers and listened for the plop into the mitt. I love that sound. The sound of a confident catch. I love how these boys extend their hand, knowing where the ball will land. I love their muscle memory, the instincts that baseball has honed.
I always had a soft spot for baseball. It was just so American, I was drawn to it in my assimilation efforts. You probably remember that I came to America when I was nine years old. I came from the land of No Baseball, the Soviet Union, although shockingly that’s not why my family fled. We moved to the Bronx but I was a teenager before I went to my first baseball game. Someone from my high school invited me and my father came along. Somehow I knew the basic principles- you run around the basis. There were bats and balls. My father was slower to warm up to it. “Is this a team sport?” he asked. “I’m beginning to think this is a team sport.”
I’d watch it on TV at times, always with some boyfriend. I thought I understood the rules. I had no idea.
And then I married into a baseball family. My father-in-law played in the minor leagues for years, he and Whitey Ford were roommates for a while. My brother-in-law played in college. And when my son, who had played soccer and tennis chose baseball above all others, to have and to hold, it seemed like there was almost a genetic element to it. It doesn’t make sense. How could it be? It just is.
We’re at the point now where the next step for him is to try out for travel baseball. It’s a huge deal and an expensive one. As a matter of fact, when I saw the price, I wondered if they were going to be traveling intergallactically. So we left it at the “we’re thinking about it” phase, which any kid who has been alive more than a minute knows means “no, but we’re thinking of a way to tell you that/hoping you’ll forget” in parentspeak.
But then a miracle happened.
A dad I sort-of-knew called started a travel team of his own and invited my son to play. And instead FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS, the fee was $200, and although I’m not a mathematician, preliminary calculations show that $200 is more affordable than $5,000.
Yesterday,we dropped him off at overnight baseball camp.
I went to overnight camp once, the summer my family and I came to America, and my parents had shit to do so they packed me off to Surprise Lake Camp, the surprise being that I was the only one there who didn’t speak English. I hated every second of it. I hated that I did not know that in America, you are supposed to change your clothes every day, and I proudly wore my Donny & Marie t-shirt for six days straight until a helpful counselor pantomimed a strip-tease routine that involved putting on a new outfit. I hated that everyone treated me like an alien/possible Soviet spy. I hated that I didn’t know where the fuck I was and had no friends and didn’t have a clear understanding of when I’d be sprung from that hellhole.
So I swore that I’d never subject my kids to that.
Never mind that they’re native English speakers with t-shirt changing abilities.
My son has been asking to go to overnight baseball camp and after a few short years of “we’re thinking about it” we finally took him yesterday.
Endless fields, every kid with a mitt. Baseball gear everywhere. The schedule is filled with drills and games and position fundamentals. He couldn’t stop smiling.
Obviously I miss him already. I’m hoping I can hold off for at least 24 hours before I call the camp to see how he’s doing. (They give you a number you call, leave your camper’s name and your phone number and someone will check on him and get back to you. I’m not quite sure how that works. Are you supposed to call if you have a psychic vision that you want confirmed/dispelled? Don’t they call you anyway if something is wrong? I need to end this train of thought/sheer panic now before I drive to camp and collect him.)
But I’m glad that he loves baseball so much. Even though my understanding of the sport is amateurish at best, I know what love looks like. And it feels good to see your kid feel it.