Ever have one of those days where you look at your kid, and find yourself completely overwhelmed at how much you are in love with him? That was my yesterday.
Major League Baseball is just opening up. Stadiums are empty, even the play-by-play and color commentary guys are banned from traveling, but plate umps are calling “Play ball” across America. For $50 you can purchase a giant likeness of your face to contribute to the illusion that fans are in the stands, and at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, you can even see stands filled with virtual, digital fans. Crowd noise is piped in, cheering when the home team lines one to left. And I want to know who got that job? It’s someone’s actual job now to select the appropriate “crowd noise” when a batter hits or misses and determine the organist’s rally cries via some iPod playlist made possible only by the dumpster fire we call 2020. Anyway.
The MLB’s truncated season got underway the very weekend my baby’s season had come to its end. That there was a season at all for youth baseball was event enough, here in the the world of COVID-19. Though the world had been shut down, youth baseball somehow found its way to daylight. The season was short, cancellations abounded and disappointment ran rampant, but our younger son, to my great surprise, got in two months of ball, and that meant that so did I.
You may wholly disagree with our decision to let our boy play, and that’s your prerogative. Science is real. If you think we weren’t nervous to send our baby to his first team practice back in May, or sit along the first base line those early few games, think again. But this team made a commitment to our son last August, as did we to them in return, and we felt bound to honor our commitment to have him play. Rules and spaces were changed to accommodate social distancing. Spectators were to be limited in number, and everyone I saw respected space. There were no hugs, no high fives.
Youth baseball being open created its own set of losses and casualties. My son has seen his best friend only once since ball opened. Honestly, I wondered whether he would choose hanging with his best friend over baseball with an entirely new-to-him crop of kids. I fully understand his BFF’s mother’s decision to disallow them to hang once our son’s baseball practices opened up our formerly 100% quarantined social circle. The good guys in green and gold lost their home diamond to city and county park closures, so league schedules were cut and tournaments axed. Thunderstorms were our constant summer companion (only on game days though!) to a point I actually wondered if the weather knew something we couldn’t. Maybe those flood- and lightning-forced cancellations would have been fraught with exposure risks? We’ll never know. We got what we got: twenty-two forays around southeastern Wisconsin. And we were grateful for them.
No one on or related to his team became ill or has tested positive for coronavirus. Maybe we were lucky, but you know what? Luck has been in short supply at Chez Weir this last year (or five. . .), ya know? My son got to play a game he loves. We got to meet new families whose goals mirrored ours–to give their sons the opportunity to play the game they love. Prior to the season, you may have heard me say that I wasn’t interested in getting to know a whole new group of parents, that this season was a one and done, and I didn’t need to become chatty with the other baseball parents. But man, I’m glad I was and I did. We were told that the vibe on my baby’s new team was chill, and the reputation was well-earned. Really good people cheering on everyone’s kid, finding something good to say about every kid, every game. There were cocktails. There were laughs. There were wins. Victory all around.
After yesterday’s final out (with my boy on deck!), I had that teary-eyed moment I expected, and that my kid openly and loudly asked me not to succumb to. “Don’t cry, Mom!” But I always cry at endings. Even good ones. And this was a good one. This ending also marked the end of an era for us. After six years of travel ball, my little one is heading to high school now where he will be playing high school ball for the Huskies next season. Whole new dynamic, whole new color scheme. Whole new world of baseball-less summers-to-come for his dad and me.
My son’s season isn’t one for his record books, but he played hard. He worked hard and improved his game. He had fun! In the “Do you feel like you have to play ball or do you get to play ball?” he got to play ball this year. I’m proud of him for the player he is, and more proud for the teammate he is. He’s compassionate (you should have seen my boy when a teammate went down after taking one to the face), and he’s as happy for a teammate when he lines one as when he blasts one himself.
I don’t often ask, but I needed a photo to mark this ending. He played along. Of course he did–he’s that kind of teammate. I love this child, you just don’t even know.
It’s the bottom of the seventh, game over, so line ’em up, boys. Tip your cap (because in the age of COVID, you don’t shake hands to acknowledge your opponent), and say goodbye. I’m really gonna miss my boys of summer.