During my 7th grade year, I joined the track team, embracing the daring-do of the long and triple jump. It was my first foray into the world of sports beyond the usual Physical Education requirements. As a child I spent my time climbing trees, throwing a tennis ball against the side of the barn and catching it, bike riding and roller skating. Away from town, sidewalks and crosswalks, team sports held little appeal. My sister rode her bike into Hughson to swim under the supervision of Brenda Henley, eventually joining the swim teams of Turlock Schools where we attended. I was more content with my books, my daydreams, and my world of pretend.
I like baseball.
I like the idea of baseball and I find, as an adult, I like the pace of baseball. It is America’s pastime, the America I still dream exists beyond the quibbling of party lines, the media hysteria, the bleak and negative news cycle.
At last year’s Hughson Youth Baseball and Softball season-opening and anniversary, I saw my ideal goes beyond imagination. David Spears spoke poetically of the power of the team sport, the engagement, the fathers and sons, the daughters, the history and tradition. It is a world that does exist when we continue to put in our effort and make it happen with open hearts, minds, and sportsmanlike attitudes.
So when registration opened, I signed up the two children most intrigued whenever we ventured to the baseball fields of Lebright Park, a seven-year-old and a five-year-old, neither of whom knew how to bat, catch, properly throw, or how to play the game. As we waited for tryouts, excitement and anticipation turned to fear and self-consciousness. Neither wanted to do it.
My musician-husband also preferred track to team sports as a youth made the call:
Try it first.
I knew a tryout date of January 25 posed problems with my January 23 due date. It was time to enlist the help of grandparents. After a few conversations about committing to something the days and times of which we knew not, they were on board. Away they whisked the kids to Bilson’s to buy the gear, back and forth my mother emailed with the accommodating organizers, patient with us country folk who never played on a team.
Stella Chiara came into the world before tryouts, two weeks earlier than planned. My mind clouded in the fog of sleep deprivation, my husband running long hours after squirrelly children and meal planning (a change from his intellectual work of teaching and playing the arts), the grandparents came to the rescue. They confirmed all the times and picked up the kids on tryout day, one to try out, the other to watch.
She sent me photos throughout the afternoon. My sweet child whose athleticism has been primarily geared toward archery, tree climbing, rope swinging and moving logs stood out a bit in his khakis and hiking-style tennis shoes against the cleats, baseball caps and athletic pants of the more professional seven and eight-year-olds among him. It was unfamiliar territory.
There were other children the kids knew and other mothers my mother knew who both advised, informed and warned about the pleasures and perils of team sports. As David Spears had promised, there would be other mothers to look after my boy while I stayed home caring for those who by age or medical condition, cannot handle the heat.
Upon returning home, the report was positive. “Great!” he said, “it was super fun.”
“What did you like about it?” I asked.
He answered, “The catching and the batting.”
“What do you think about playing baseball now?”
“Good. I do really want to play it.”
Pretty poetic, I’d say. We are ready for a new experience to begin both in our adventures of raising five children and doing our best to give those less fragile in health than others, who might fly under the radar, those experiences that were so definitive for others and part of our cultural tradition.