Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Journey with Baseball

If you read this title and expected some sort of incisive commentary on the game or my abiding love of the sport I'm going to tell you right up front you're not going to get that. what you are going to get is a history of my relationship to America's pastime.

Once upon a time I was a wee lime growing up in a baseball saturated small town. My hometown, small as it was, had leagues out the ears for wee tots on up to adults. Yeah, I know so does your town. What my town also had was a consistently winning VFW league. When I say winning I don't mean merely in local contests, I mean in the VFW World Series. If we didn't win we at least made it to the series for many years running, but we frequently won. A bad year meant we didn't get to the series.

As my father describes me I am extremely athletically declined. In elementary school I was the kid left standing next to the kid from the "special class" when teams were chosen up. It was a pretty even likelihood that I'd be the last one standing there and reluctantly accepted onto the team unfortunate enough to have to abide my utter lack of ability in any kind of team sport. By junior high I at least had a few friends who I could count on during gym class to pick me for a team out of mercy for me so I was spared that humiliation. I still hated that my grade for the class figured into whether or not I made honor roll when I could shine academically.

By high school I noticed how the athletic programs in school got all sorts of funding but the arts got comparatively little. The truly infuriating example of the skewed priorities in my mind was attending class in a building which was in a sorry state of disrepair while a $1 million baseball stadium followed by a $3million football stadium were built on school grounds to accommodate our hometown VFW baseball team when it hosted the world series and our football team which had a record so bad a petition requesting the girls' field hockey team be allowed to play the homecoming game was sent around. So whether you were an athletic powerhouse like the baseball players or a set of hopeless losers like our football team was you were going to be funded at the cost of everyone else.

Once I got to college, I heard the star pitcher of the baseball team (our neighbor) had gotten a girl pregnant. He informed the coaches of his decision to do the responsible thing by quitting the team to get a job and pay child support. Kudos to him for manning up. However, the team couldn't do without its star pitcher so the coaches decided to pool together to pay support to the mother. America's pastime indeed. It all sickened me. I wanted nothing to do with any of it.

Then in 1986 I met Mr. Lime, who is a lifelong Mets fan. If you know anything about baseball you know 1986 is the second time the Mets won the World Series. I watched the series with Mr. Lime and the mutual pal who introduced us and who happens to be a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. It was at this time I learned about the Curse of the Bambino, which was said to account for the Sox not having won a Series since, I dunno...the late Mezosoic Era. Ok, let's qualify this all. initially I didn't attend the game watching for the sake of watching the game. I went because I thought it would be hilarious to watch these two friends of mine get insane over their 2 consistently horrid teams duking it out in the World Series while I happily puttered in the kitchen of Mr. Lime's apartment. To further qualify, I lived in the dorms and really missed being able to make the food I enjoyed and being subjected to cafeteria food. Mr. Lime hated cooking and was all too happy to offer his kitchen for my use because it meant he got more than Cap'n Crunch and a microwaved spud for dinner. So I thought it would be a stitch during breaks in my cooking to laugh at these two baseball maniacs during the World Series. Then the games actually got kind of interesting, what with billy Buckner letting balls roll between his legs at crucial moments and all. (Suldog, forgive me for bringing it up but it was damned funny to see.)

Skipping ahead a bit, Mr. Lime and I eventually married. Mr. Lime is the youngest of 3 very athletic brothers. I was now expected to muster some actual interest in baseball. The summer I was pregnant with Diana when we went to visit our friend the BoSox fan. We went to Fenway park where I wedged my widening self into the wooden slatted seats along the third base line. I became nauseous from the smell of beer. Later that summer we went to visit my mother-in-law in Florida where we went to watch the Mets minor league team....Oh be still my heart. If Fenway during pregnancy was not really my favorite activity, being pregnant and held captive in the blazing Florida sun to endure another game was even less fun. When the game was tied up at the top of the 9th I groaned at the thought of extra innings. I rooted for the other team to win just so we could get the hell out of the stadium. One could justifiably accuse me of not having a good attitude.

Later we moved to Trinidad, where there was no baseball. There was something worse, cricket. Full length cricket matches can go on for 5 days. Test matches can last 3 days. Trinidadians are even more crazed for cricket than Americans are for baseball. It made baseball seem fairly benign. When by some strange alignment of signals a station on the island broadcast a baseball game, Mr. Lime and one of our dearest friends there watched the game together. Mr. Lime was somehow absent when a grand slam occurred. Our friend had a question about how that would be rendered statistically for the batter. I was shocked to hear myself define the term "run batted in" and let my friend know the batter would be credited with 4 RBIs. Apparently osmosis had kicked in at some point during my marriage.

Upon our return to the US I tolerated baseball games on t.v. Then we had a son...and I began to worry he may want to play sports some day. I wasn't worried about injury so much as the possibility I may be required to attend games and get excited about them. How was I going to manage to get excited about and activity that I found about as enjoyable as most people find teeth cleanings but far less useful? I could watch father and son play catch in the yard and well up with all sorts of familial happiness at the idyllic scene. I could smile as the boy watched Mets games with his dad and while I puttered at a preferable activity. But the day was coming when I'd be forced to personally attend another game. Ugh.

When it arrived I found it wasn't quite as bad as I thought. It was kind of cute as the kids bumbled around on the field. My son's early teams were all of the Charlie Brown type so there was little expectation or pressure. Mr. Lime coached the early teams and even sponsored one of them along with a friend. They gave the team a seemingly innocent name which was an inside joke. It would have brought down the wrath of a dozen sets of parents had they any inkling of the meaning. You all know me well enough to know how I could enjoy that.

Time passed and I began to actually care about the game and ask questions about the rules so I could understand what my son was doing. We took the kids to local minor league games and I asked more questions and saw the absolute rapture on my son's face to have his first chance to see professionals play. Around the age of 8 he began spouting statistics and I was astonished at his knowledge. He continued to develop as a player and eventually settled into his favorite position after alternating between pitcher, catcher, and first base. The boy just LOVES to catch and I am told he is a really good defensive catcher. I learned I love watching him catch. I learned more about the game itself because I wanted to understand this thing that fascinates my son. I learned baseball, when played for love of the game, can be a lot of fun.

Now the boy is missing his favorite season of the year because of a knee injury and tomorrow morning he will be having surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee. He's rightly disappointed by a lost season and I am disappointed with him but we hope for a lot of great seasons to come once his knee is all healed up. If you have been kind enough to stick with me through this post I'd ask for one more kindness in saying a prayer or sending good thoughts to Isaac as he recovers. I don't know if I'll being doing any significant posting the rest of this week (though I have a meme in my hip pocket I may autopost) but I will update you once we are home and he's happily dozing in out out of a painkiller haze.


17 comments:

Craig said...

Of course, a true baseball fan understands that the Buckner ball was just tragic, no matter how you look at it, albeit fundamentally part of the fabric of the Baseball Universe (I'm sure the Mets aren't about to send back their trophy, at any rate. . .)

So much here that just pokes my memories; you know, between you and Suldog, that I'm gonna have to make my own baseball post, now. . .

I, too, grew up in a baseball town. Our local Little League team was always contending for the state championship, and once came within a game of the LL World Series. . . A classmate of mine went on to play for the Cubs and Indians. . .

And good for you for understanding RBIs; but the real test is whether you can explain the Infield Fly Rule. . . ;)

God bless your maternal heart. I will pray for Isaac's surgery; our son (5M) blew our his knee last summer in the last week of practice before football season, so I feel some of your pain. . .

lime said...

craig, whether it is caught or not when a batter pops an infield fly it's considered an out to prevent cheap and easy double or triple plays.

lime said...

and yes, ok, the buckner incident was tragic but forgive me for thinking it was hilarious. thank you also for the prayers.

g-man said...

Jeezus Jenny...
You should be be rewarded an MA after this thesis.
Better soak your fingers...:-)

Craig said...

OK, knowledge of the Infield Fly Rule qualifies you as an official member of the Baseball Elite; you should be receiving your frameable certificate in the mail shortly. . . ;)

See, one of the things I love about baseball is the pure human-level drama of it. Baseball players, by and large, aren't freaks of nature the way footbal and basketball players are. And even at the highest level of the game, its history is defined almost as much by its players' failures as their greatness. . .

Bill Buckner was a very, very good player, who, apart from Game 6 of the '86 Series, might have been given consideration for the Hall of Fame. But he can never go back to Boston. And it's just part of the game's tragic grandeur that a player the caliber of Bill Buckner is known forever for a millisecond of lapsed concentration, rather than a 22-year career, 2715 hits, a batting championship, and an All-Star game. . .

Geez, listen to me. . . next thing, I'll be talking about verdant pastures, or somesuch. . .

Jeni said...

Had to comment on this post! I'm was never all that athletic but one thing I did always enjoy -still do -is baseball! I actually do know a good bit about it and can listen to a game on the radio and be able to envision what's taking place. Something I can't do with respect to football (which I also love, but need to watch it) and basketball, which I dislike -not near as much as golf though. I grew up hearing baseball games on the radio, played at full blast so my Grandpa could hear the play-by-play with his hand cupped around his better ear and leaning almost against the radio's speakers. My hometown here is a tiny -and I do mean tiny -coal mining village and for many years -from the early 1900s through the 40s -the town had a baseball team and that team frequently won local league championship and yes, twice in the 30s, they went to the national playoffs too! (As did the other team in town which was sponsored by the Slovak Club and the Catholic church, whereas the town team was I believe sponsored by the coal company. Loved this post though -shows how once you learn a bit more about a game and especially when you have a family member actually involved in that sport, your interests do change a good bit, don't they?
Peace.

Cocotte said...

I was also picked last in gym class. And I married a jock who is from a family of MVP's. And two of my three kids lettered in varsity sports their freshmen years.

Guess what? I still have zero interest in any of it!

Suldog said...

As you know, I've already said some prayers (and I'm hoping that my being a catcher will carry a tiny bit of weight with The Big Guy.) And I had surgery for a torn meniscus at the age of 38 or 39, and I'm still able to catch at age 53, so Isaac will be just fine.

I was going to jump to the defense of Bill Buckner, but Craig has already done an admirable job of that. Just one correction: Billy Buck is more than welcome in Boston, at least by true baseball fans. It's only the bandwagon jumpers and know-nothings who still would give him grief. The real fans know that the Sox wouldn't even have been in the World Series without his contributions during the season.

Please keep us updated.

Craver Vii said...

"when played for love of the game"... That is key; isn't it?

I always take prayer requests to heart, so know that I will be lifting Isaac up to the throne of grace.

Maybe later, I'll get some popcorn and see if I can watch a good session of teeth cleanings. ;-)

secret agent woman said...

I love you, but I think I slipped into a coma as soon as I read the word baseball and just now regained consciousness. :-)

secret agent woman said...

(But I do hope your son recovers quickly.)

Ananda girl said...

You got it lime! Please pass my well wishes on to your boy too.

Baseball was the only sport I ever did well with, though I also played soccer in a mediocre way. The funny thing about baseball... well softball... was my talent centered on my being so short that I had zero strike zone and the soul of Ferdinand the Bull while I admired the flowers in deep right field.

Secretly I was terrified of the ball the first season... we were about to be trounced by the other team with their best gal at bat and two outs against them...a fly ball came right to me... of course!

So I did what any great player would do... crouched down with my hands over my head in fear as it hurtled toward me. It beaned me solidly on top of my skull and by accident, I caught it between my knees as I stood up in shock. It never touched the ground, so the out counted. Somewhat brain rattled, I accepted the role of hero. What a glorious day!

Yeah, after that I was totally hooked.

Hilary said...

I'll keep your boy in my very best, healing thoughts, Michelle. I wish him a very speedy recovery.

Cricket said...

Always happy to pray for those in need. As I've told Sul in the past, I'll enlist the little one, too. He's always willing to add his voice, and I think he has more pull than me.

Athletically declined, yep, me too. Of course, now I prefer to be athletically reclined where sports are involved.

Dave said...

I enjoyed this story Michelle! Wonderfully put together. - Dave

mary said...

Torn meniscus? I hope that is not as painful as it sounds. I am sending good vibrations for a speedy recovery!

Jocelyn said...

Just on the level of how this is written--the ease of the prose, the fact that you made baseball fascinating to me--I think this is one of your best posts. Isn't it amazing to write such a thing, where you go back and catalog decades that have accrued into something you can't believe you now know inside and out?