By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire
It has been a while, but they are finally playing baseball again where it counts: Possum Hollow.
My son moved up a notch this year. He is now playing in the Minors “A” League. His little right arm, which looks like a noodle, is actually capable of throwing a ball from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. Sometimes over, sometimes under, but usually in the general vicinity.
It’s tough watching him pitch. I have to pay attention at all times so I know why he will either be upset or happy on the ride home. I can’t look away for even one toss.
When he doesn’t pitch, they usually park him in the outfield. It’s tough watching him there, too, mainly because he barely pays attention when he’s in the outfield, so I assume it’s only a matter of time before either the ball hits him on the head or a giant eagle carries him off. There is nothing scarier than hearing the crack of the bat and realizing that your son is staring, for no reason at all, at the hot dog stand.
I suppose there are lonelier vigils than being a parent at a ballgame, but I don’t know what they are. If my kid is playing, I am on edge. If my kid is not playing, I am on a different edge. I tell him that the most important thing is to have fun, while I myself sit there and seethe.
I do enjoy speaking to the other parents, of course, and there is a certain camaraderie that develops amongst us, especially when our kids are losing by over ten runs. Yet even there, things can get difficult. There always comes a point where the other dads make me feel uneasy because my kid’s bat cost less than fifty bucks. There is a palpable sense in Possum Hollow that purchasing a bat that costs less than your wife’s engagement ring is the equivalent of child abuse.
I might be tempted to spend more on a bat, if my kid could actually use it. But the truth is that he handles his bat like it’s a live, gigantic, and horrifying insect. He holds it away from himself and he seems to try less to hit things with it, than hope that it somehow gets hit (you could call this “bunting” if you were in a charitable mood). The other dads imply that if I spent more on his bat, he could probably hit better. But it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools, and something tells me that Mookie Betts could probably hit damned well even with a cheap bat. “Eye on the ball,” I tell my son. He tells me he does that, but he is a terrible liar.
I find baseball to be a beautiful sport, and interestingly enough, I use that word when I talk about it. When I see a good pitch, I’ll call it a beautiful one; same for a leaping catch in center field, or a slick play at shortstop. That’s odd, when you think about it. Beauty is for flowers, and the faces of your loved ones, and the girl you left behind in high school and wish you never had. It shouldn’t apply to a double play. Yet it does.
Perhaps this is because the concept of beauty is always linked to an emotion: something is beautiful when you want it in your life, when it makes you feel full, when it makes your heart actually ache.
And perhaps the beauty of baseball lies in how this sport invariably takes root in your life: by playing catch in the backyard with your dad. I played catch with my father, and I can still remember the texture of those moments. I remember how tired he looked after his day’s work, and how eager I was to get out there with him. I remember putting on my baseball cap for these affairs, and I remember that he would still be wearing his work shoes, his dress shirt, and sometimes even his tie. I remember that when he missed the ball I threw, it was often a long walk for him to pick it up again. I remember these things well, because I am also tired from my own long days when I play catch with my own son.
Tired fathers and eager sons make up the heart of baseball. You play because you love each other, and if that’s not beautiful, nothing is.
Michael Davidow is a lawyer in Nashua. He is the author of Gate City, Split Thirty, and The Rocketdyne Commission, three novels about politics and advertising which, taken together, form The Henry Bell Project, The Book of Order, and his most recent one, The Hunter of Talyashevka . They are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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