Sunday, April 21, 2013

Put Me In, Coach

We've left the squeaky soccer gym behind and moved out to the baseball fields.

We found out last-minute the other day that Ethan's first t-ball practice would be the following day, weather permitting. He didn't even have a glove yet. So the next morning after seeing the rain had cleared and making a quick jaunt to Target, we headed over to Fitch Field. This was a t-ball clinic open to every child in town participating, which meant there were about a hundred other kids there. We made our way through the chaos and got his shirt and hat for his team (the Raptors!). We found the coach (thankfully, a family friend). We helped Ethan put on his glove and he got down to business.

And so, although the day was not devoid of its challenges (including Ethan's tendency to not want to look when throwing the ball, a bout of on-the-ground silliness, and a number of tears when he realized he couldn't field the ball every time), by the end of the practice, we'd learned something --

Ethan really likes baseball.

Why should I be surprised? What surprises me more is why we even bothered with soccer. I really don't care for soccer. I'm sorry, any soccer fans out there. It's just not my game. No one in my family played it; God forbid any of us ever watch it.

But baseball, ahhh. Ethan has baseball blood flowing through his veins. My (and Dan's) grandparents, uncles, cousins, mom and dad all love the game. My brother Nate played Little League for years and years. The Red Sox are like a member of the family. Ethan knows: we want the Red Sox to win, and the Yankees to lose. I've written about this before: the beauty of a game crackling in the background on a muggy summer evening; the green of the Fenway grass; the way baseball to me, baseball in its purest form (subtracting the bloated salaries and egos and steroid controversies) is summer and sweetness and childhood and chasing dreams.

Rather than being forced to stay focused and pay attention, Ethan wanted to keep practicing. And while some elements of the game are still over his head, and sometimes he gets really tripped up on instructions involving more than a few steps, he was out there on a spring morning tossing the ball, smacking it off the tee, running around the bases, unabashedly happy. Not forced or coerced. Genuinely having fun.

One hundred miles away, the Red Sox were in Fenway Park at batting practice, ready to bring a hurting city to life again after a horrific week of terror and tragedy, ready to play a children's game that somehow means so much more to so many people. And in our not-so-little town, a little boy was swinging at a ball with so many other five and six-year-olds, doing something we weren't sure he'd ever be able to do.

As Neil Diamond sings every Sox game before the bottom of the 8th: Good times never seemed so good. Or -- sometimes, thanks to baseball, the not so good times are made just a little better.

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