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The other side of the fence

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MLB: Los Angeles Angels-Press Conference Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

My earliest memories of baseball are pretty standard: catch with dad, games on the radio, grandfathers and uncles telling me about players of yesteryear. I started t-ball and worked my way up the baseball ladder to Little League and was the bat boy for my dad’s rec league softball teams year after year.

Growing up in a small farming town, baseball was the soundtrack of summer. A game was on the radio in nearly every truck or tractor I rode in as a child and later drove as a teenager and adult. Kids would congregate at the park for makeshift games.

Like most baseball fans, I mark my personal timeline with baseball milestones and vice a versa. I know exactly where I was when countless moments happened. And who I was with.

My t-ball coach was my childhood best friend’s dad. I remember countless games of pickle with him and his brothers in the front yard. We broke a window at their home so often the dad simply boarded it up until we hit our teenage years.

A couple of summers back that friend called me with an extra ticket to Dodgers/Angels with his dad. I was busy, but cleared the day. The dad passed away last year and I thought about how thankful I was to have that last day at the ballpark with him. And how fitting that was the last time I spent with my very first coach.

In the dugout of my dad’s softball games I was given high fives and treated like one of the guys. It felt so cool to feel like grown up. After countless softball games my dad’s teams would hit the local pizza place. Men I love like uncles and their wives who were basically aunts would hand me prized quarters for the video arcade.

I went to my first big league game with my parents and my Uncle Chris. I have a lot of memories with my Uncle Chris, we’ve always shared a very special bond, but that one is really special.

Now, as I sit here on what passes for a cold winter morning in Southern California, my three month old son flashing his toothless smile at me with MLB Network in the background, I realize that now it is my time to pass on the love of baseball. And I couldn’t be happier.

My son was born the evening of September 19th of last year. On September 20th we spent the night in the hospital. He slept on my chest, and we watched the Angels. It was the best game of my life. Trying to contain my excitement while he slept on my chest during the amazing 2017 World Series was a challenge, but we made it through.

Over the last few years I’ve taken nearly every one of my nieces and nephews to their first baseball games. I try to take each of the nearby ones at least once per year.

While I rarely get to follow the action on the field closely, those are my favorite games each year. A nephew on my lap, his sibling half covered in melting ice cream, the vendors looking at me with a knowing smile. That’s the life.

A few years back my brother-in-law called to tell me my then 2 year old nephew saw a baseball game on TV and started yelling “Uncle Jeff! Uncle Jeff!” We had seen the Angels the weekend prior.

I’ve taken another nephew to Spring Training; my favorite trip thus far.

I can’t wait to take my son to his first game. Or his second. Or his hundredth. And to Tempe. Even if he doesn’t love baseball, he’ll remember the time we spend together. And I’ll cherish showing him all the little nuances that make this game so great.

I realized a while back that some day my nephew will be 30. He’s going to see a baseball game on TV and think “Uncle Jeff.” My son will see one and think “Dad.”

Hopefully I’m still around and they call me. I hope they smile and look back on all the memories the way I do. The funny thing is they’ll think they were the ones having the best time. I know I did.

Until I was on this side of the fence.