Monday, April 03, 2006

I'm Born Again, There's New Grass on the Field

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It's Opening Day!

In Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It, he writes, "In my family, there was no clear division between religion and fly fishing."

The same could be said in my family of baseball. My father was a lifelong, die-hard fan of the sport. He played it in high school, college, and the Navy. He coached girl's little league softball. He announced the games for my high school. And he loved to go sit in the stands and watch it.

When I was a boy of four, he was given seasons passes to go see the Eugene Emeralds, or Single A minor league team. He'd just get settled in to watch the game when I'd want a hot dog and a pop. So he'd walk with me to concessions, buy the food, and walk back to his seat. By the 3rd or 4th inning, I'd want some cotton candy. By the 5th inning or so, I'd want to go home. My poor father never got to see one of those games through to the end.

But he did manage to plant a seed. And by the time I was a teenager, I was as devoted to Baseball as he was. And because my grandparents lived in San Diego, I'd become (and still am) a diehard Padres fan -- I was a fan back in the days of the Swingin' Friar, the uniforms that looked like McDonalds uniforms (the team WAS owned by Ray Kroc), and teams that couldn't hit their way out of a paper bag. I had the privilege of watching Tony Gwynn (one of the last true gentlemen in baseball) play out his entire career in The Murph (I refuse to think of it as "Qualcomm").

And when we moved to San Diego when I was a young adult, he got the chance to teach me all the tings about baseball that he'd always wanted to. He taught me the main reason that baseball is better watched live and in person, as opposed to on televison (a medium perfect for football but lacking for baseball) -- he taught me not to focus on the battery, but to watch the whole field. He taught me to appreciate hitting to get on base as much as the long ball. And he taught me how to keep the faith -- to not give up on your team no matter how bad things look.

He's gone now, and I no longer have someone to talk baseball with. But I have a young son, and I live just a few short miles from the field where the Emeralds play. Maybe some day....

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