Fathers Playing Catch With Sons (with a nod to Donald Hall)

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A long time ago, maybe even before Liam was born, Husband asked me if I wanted a baseball mitt, so we could, you know, fulfill some fantasy he had about a baseball-loving wife who would gladly shag flies with him in the park of a springtime day.

Wrong wife. I don’t so much do baseball. I don’t so much do sports, basically. I like a lot of things, but I’m not a fan of anything, really. Other than perhaps going out to dinner. Is there a fan club for that? I’d join in a heartbeat.

Husband is a student of the sports he loves: baseball and hockey, for a long time (alas, the man likes the Mets and the Rangers and thus lives in a state of perpetual heartbreak); he’s added soccer to the roster of interests, in light of the upcoming World Cup. And after more than a decade with the man, I’ve learned to like (tolerate) the sounds of a ballgame on TV, and will even feign interest in the league standings as the Mets move up and down (and down, ever down) over the course of the season.  We even haul the boys to a few games during the summer, although they are mostly, at this point, more interested in the availability of cotton candy, hot dogs, and orange soda, than they are in the relative merits of pitchers and outfielders.

But hope springs eternal. Liam has foresaken baseball for soccer (mostly out of frustration at not being a “slugger”), but now Caleb has started t-ball, that wonderful invention whereby kids hit the ball off a T-stand, everyone on the team gets to hit, everyone gets on base, and everyone runs the bases in order to “score” at home-plate. The fact that everyone scores (and thus the teams always end in a tie) didn’t prevent at least four kids (from opposing teams) declare that their team won, however.

Caleb loved it. Assumed the “ready” pose in the field (then ran for the ball regardless of where it landed, as did everyone else on the team, in a kind of rugby-esque scrum); ran the bases with great vigor (as did the boy who went from second base diagonally across the field to home, and the other boy who got to third base and continued off the field into his mother’s lap); and swung at the stationary ball with huge enthusiasm (once knocking over the stand itself, but the second and third times hitting balls quite respectably into the outfield).

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I could almost hear Husband’s heart singing for joy. Not that he doesn’t love Liam’s success with soccer, but baseball…baseball is the sacred ritual, the measure of the seasons, the country’s game, rooted in the bucolic image of a open grassy field, that kind of stuff. Is more ink spilled about baseball than any other sport, or does it just seem that way to me? The title of this post comes from a book of essays by the poet Donald Hall, whose entire family (including his wife) loved baseball.  In our house, Husband has two out of three (unlike Donald Hall’s wife, I’m a holdout).

Of course, as you can see in the picture at the top of this post, the “bucolic” thing is a little hard to find in Manhattan – more prison-yard than country field, I think. 

And no,  I still don’t have a mitt, much to the chagrin of both my sons, who have told me, rather indignantly, that they can’t be expected to play catch with me if I don’t have a MITT. But I’m thinking they’re going to get me one for Mother’s Day. And as long as that mitt is holding a gift certificate for a hot-stone massage, I’ll be ready to play ball.

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6 Responses to Fathers Playing Catch With Sons (with a nod to Donald Hall)

  1. ann April 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Oh, Deb, lovely and hilarious description of a t-ball game. I have, unexpectedly, become a baseball fan but find the passions and heartbreak of little league games so so hard to watch. Also the number of bad pitches (resulting in injuries or walks). But I actually enjoy pro- and minor league games.

    Here’s what I did for love: shouldered through Gravity’s Rainbow. Which I also learned to love. But it certainly was a leap of faith to put that behemoth in my suitcase for a monthlong trip…

  2. KSB April 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    I once complained about how there was nothing to watch on TV one weekend because too many of the channels had baseball games on, and well, hell hath no fury like that of your husband’s, who promptly declared me anti-American (and worse). The man certainly loves baseball! You’ll probably put him on cloud nine or in seventh heaven or some equivalent plane just by picking up a mitt and saying, let’s go play ball. Maybe you can use your mother’s day gift to give him his father’s day gift? ;P

  3. Steve April 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Yes, my wife likewise doesn’t play baseball. Or football or basketball or or hockey or wrestle or box or chase the boys. Which is fine and all, but sometimes we husbands (us husbands?) get tired and need a break! (or a cold beer!)

  4. Dick Horwich April 17, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    So, why doesn’t Cyrus have a catch with KSB’s husband, or Steve, or me — or John Sexton; isn’t he supposed to be nuts about baseball?

  5. a guy May 3, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    This is a terrific post, including an ending that’s mad clever but doesn’t seem only-clever-in-that-pomo-way. Husband has probably read the Bart Giamatti text I’ve linked, but if not he’ll like it, and based on this post, you may like it as literature.

    http://mason.gmu.edu/~rmatz/giamatti.html

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