Friday, June 09, 2006

All Baseball, All the Time

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

The Yankee-Red Sox game is on the tube as this is being written. Monday my older son’s high school team played for the Long Island Championship (they won). Over the weekend all of the ball games my sons and I were scheduled to play in (five in total) were postponed because of rain or wet conditions. So what did I do? I went to see my nephew’s high school team play for the Long Island Championship (bigger high school division. They won, too). That’s what I did. This baseball thing is out of control. Is there such a thing as Baseball Anonymous?

Now I love the sport and I love watching my sons play it. I even signed up to play softball in one of those “Over The Hill” leagues on Sunday nights. But between watching my sons play, playing myself and then of course all the extracurricular activities related to my participation as a board member in the local Little League, it seems as my life has been taken over by the horsehide sphere. It’s as if baseball is my god and I am one of its…well, I can’t say what but to paraphrase Mrs. Bush it rhymes, sort of, with 108 stitches.

See, now, that’s what I mean. Only a nudnik would know that the standard baseball comes with 108 stitches. I need a life.

It shouldn’t surprise me that baseball encompasses so much of my daily existence – that’s the way it’s always been. My childhood friend Dr. Mike the Chiropractor once told me that there was a time in our youth when he forgot what color hair I had because I was always sporting a baseball cap. What few home movies my family has feature a little boy (me) running around making “safe” and “out” signs as if I were an umpire. What? Other kids didn’t do that? That’s not normal? Of course it’s not. If you watched those movies and you didn’t know any better you would think my parents fed me crack for breakfast.

The first date I ever went on involved, you guessed it, a baseball game. The date fell on the Fourth of July and I thought there was a fireworks show at John J. Burns Park in Massapequa. My beloved and I walked there from her parents’ house. No fireworks, though. Just two teams of unknown origin playing a game under the lights. We stayed to watch and I think I treated her to a box of candy at the snack stand. Remarkably, this young lady saw fit to be my girlfriend for another nine months. I did notice, however, a marked reluctance on her part to speak to me when I saw her at the 20th high school reunion a few years back.

I played ball in Little League and CYO and then, of course, high school. With each passing year, however, it became increasingly evident that “professional baseball player” was not going to appear anywhere on my resume. Sadly, the end of my high school baseball career was rather ugly and as a result I ended up virtually ignoring the game for a couple of years. That stretch, 1976 and 1977, coincided with a sparkling run of great baseball by the Yankees – the team I suffered watching in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Just another instance of my ship coming in and I’m at the corner luncheonette, buying a paper and a cup of coffee.

The remarkable Yankee comeback in 1978 brought me back and by the time I graduated from college and started working in New York City in the early 1980s I was back full time. In 1983 I started dating my wife, Sharon. It took me some time to muster the courage to introduce the notion of watching baseball as an entertainment alternative into our relationship. (Sharon was never a big fan). I started out slowly and gently at first, with a seemingly innocuous changing of the station on the car radio “just for a second to see what the score is.” Then I convinced her to watch the All-Star game with me and that night something clicked. I’m not sure if it was the majesty of the hit and run or the sight of 50 or so healthy young men running around in skin-tight pants that did the trick and quite frankly I do not care. Baseball was no longer anathema to Sharon and I would not dispute the argument that Sharon’s embracing of the game was the first major deposit in the bank of knowledge that led me to believe that she was The One for me.

I am also proud of the fact that one of the highlights (there were many) of our Honeymoon in New England in the fall of 1985 was the evening we spent at Fenway Park, watching the Red Sox take on the Tigers of Detroit. Since then my wife and I and our sons have visited nearly ten other baseball parks around the country (Yankee, Shea, Camden Yards, Wrigley, The Jake in Cleveland, The Big A in Anaheim, Dodger Stadium, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Petco Park in San Diego). This summer - after Alex is done playing for his two travel teams and Max is done with the Williamsport and local baseball tournaments - our vacation plans are to fly to Seattle, watch the Mariners play the Yankees at Safeco Field and then drive to San Francisco to see the Giants play. In between we’ll stop in Oregon somewhere and do something touristy, seeing as Oregon does not have a baseball park that we are aware of.

So it is a baseball life for me and my family. This weekend we are off to Binghamton to watch Alex’s team participate in the State Championships. We’re all pretty excited because we hear Binghamton is beautiful this time of year – at least when there’s a baseball game going on.

Thank you for reading this column.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike very interesting, I came across your blog while searching the internet for baseball fields I could inquire about to use for my sons 11 yr old team. I thought I spent every minute of the day thinking about baseball only to see you have the bug more than me. In my case if my kids weren't so involved into the sport I would probably be the casual fan and concentrate on lowering my handicap on the links. But for now that has taken a secondary position as my kids will always come first. Their love is baseball......... That I am sure will change when they discover the opposite sex is more interesting though. If they are anything like me that won't happen until they are at least 18 so I still have a few more years of dad can we go to the park and hit the cover off the ball. I am glad my two boys are into the game and it is something we share together. It will make for some of their most vivid memories long after I am gone to pasture. Let's enjoy it while we can and relish in every minute we can spend together with them enjoying the game and their innocence.

Ask any kid what he wants to be when he gets older ?

What will he say ?

A Baseball player..........

For those of you who have made that dream come true......

Congratulations the rest of us envy you .........

Bill Pepe