Baseball and Dads

It’s Fathers Day next week. It will be my 11th year of not celebrating. I lost my father as a teenager. I’d like to say that I set aside the day to put flowers on his grave or do my best Charles Bukowski, but I don’t. I spend some time everyday thinking about my father in some capacity. I don’t imagine that this will ever change.

Three specific baseball memories are cemented clearly in my mind.

When I was a wee one I remember going to Target with my parents. We went through the checkout counter and on the way to the car I was mildly interested in what was in the bags, only to be rebuffed when I tried to sneak a peek. We didn’t go straight home though. Our family went to the park where a whiffle ball , bat, and my first baseball glove were brought out. My dad slow pitched to me and my older sister, it’s the first time I remember playing some form of baseball.

I remember as a child, living in La Puente, lying down on the floor reading a Hardy Boys book, my dad sitting in his easy chair, reading the newspaper. He called me over and showed me the standings. He explained how wins and losses were tabulated. He showed me how a box score keeps track of what went on during the game. This inexplicably captured my young imagination.

My first Angels game was an outing with my family and our pastors’ family. I was overwhelmed by the joy of the experience. I learned how to open up a peanut properly. An Angels player (Chili Davis?) was chasing down a foul pop that went into the stands, and was visibly upset when he couldn’t reach it. This was upsetting to a young me, who didn’t have the tools to process this, my dad comforted by telling the player was only upset with himself. It was bat night, and even though it’s so worn you can hardly make out the signatures, my Wally Joyner and Brian Downing Jr., emblazoned Louisville Slugger is still one of my most prized possessions.

My last baseball related memory of my father was in 1998. After a series of moves we had all ended up in far Northern (see Oregon from the house) California. I was outside, probably sneaking a smoke, when I heard him shout for me. We had both been following the McGwire home run chase closely and he yelled out that he had broken the record. We were both ecstatic.

Baseball is something I had always shared with my dad. It’s hard to hear others talk about him sometimes. I think we tend to deify the dead. We choose to dwell on the good things. It’s nice, I guess, to think of people we’ve lost as mythical figures. He was not a perfect person. He had a temper, he struggled with depression, he was over educated for his job. He was above all those things though, a good man. He loved his wife, children and God with an absolute love that I aspire to.

I’ve seen Field of Dreams. Baseball is a constant. My childhood was extraordinarily consistent, until it wasn’t. My adulthood (so far) has been defined by my inconsistency. Perhaps some part of my love of baseball is a crutch I use to unconsciously hold on to a better time. As Fathers Day approaches though, I think perhaps in some small way it’s a way for an adult version of me to relate to my father, with whom I never had an adult relationship. At the end of the day though, I love this game, and I have my dad to thank for it.

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