There must be something in the air. I started noticing the symptoms in my toddler in early March, almost fever-like. And right before my eyes, it started to spread. Friends and people I know on social media started to talk about their experience with it. Some have been prepping for it since January. I caught it. Our dog caught it. My husband, though previously exposed years ago, caught it again. It seems to be an annual occurrence and because of its overwhelming power, there’s no stopping it.
The diagnosis: Baseball season.
The cure: Buy ALL the peanuts and Cracker Jacks, because there’s no denying we DO care when we get to go back.
My highly energetic toddler must have learned about the game of baseball from a book read to him at school. I picked him up one afternoon and everything revolved around baseball. “Play ball,” he said as we passed a high school’s baseball diamond. A fun book about the Texas Rangers, It’s Baseball Time in Texas by local author Kathleen Davis, that had once sat on his book shelf now sits in his lap every chance he gets.
Described as America’s national pastime, the game of baseball (though heavily modified for a toddler) is becoming my household’s favorite pastime as well. With the days getting longer and the thrill of running around the bases wearing down the energy level, you can surely hear a lively game happening in our backyard most evenings. My husband and I take turns on being either the pitcher or the coach. Our dog is the best outfield and base player you’ve ever seen (she keeps everyone’s on-base average humble). While I won’t disclose my son’s batting average in case any scouts are reading this, I will say his determination is unflappable, he excels in counting to three, and his hand-eye coordination is improving daily. But our house isn’t the only one where you’ll find this growing love for the game.
Baseball appears to have deep roots when it comes to a family’s multi-generational attachment. Though I’ve lived in Texas all my life, during the summer we visited my grandparents in the suburbs of Chicago. Any time the Chicago Cubs were playing, you could find Grandpa sitting in HIS chair watching the game, and my grandmother sitting in HER chair, next to his, casually reading a book.
I’ve yet to step inside Wrigley Field, but I’ve circled its perimeter and marveled at its beauty in passing. To imagine the games that have been played, the people who have attended, the life that has happened in and around those seemingly sacred grounds — I have never felt so close to the past, so connected to the present, and so hopeful for the future.
Since my 2020 graduation ceremony from the University of Illinois was altered (thanks, COVID-19), so were my plans to drive up and see the Chicago Cubs play as a celebration of my master’s degree. But anytime my uncle calls, he reminds me that taking me and the family to a game is still on his bucket list. Attending a game with my uncle will be more memorable than any graduation celebration.
As humans, we are made to live life together. Our innate desire to belong to a community is supported by the brain’s reaction in releasing happy, feel-good chemicals when we find our people, our team. As with any strong emotional memory from our past, if the crack of the bat, the crunch of peanuts beneath your feet, or the tuning of the television or radio antenna to just the right degree brings back feelings of comfort and warmth, then you might be a longtime baseball fan.
Whether you sit in the nosebleed or right behind home plate, the game of baseball has a way of bringing us all together to cheer on our favorite team and learn from how they model teamwork. Not only do we need to find our team, but we also need to figure out what role we are going to play on the roster. Starting from the catcher’s rapid hand signals to the head nod when the pitcher feels confident in the strategy, there are great examples of communication and unity on display. Even when we play in the backyard, my son is already expressing his desire to help the team by calling out, “I got it” as he runs to retrieve the ball after a gentle swing of the bat from his dad. Players on a team have spent time learning about individual and collective strengths. A team that moves and acts as one is a team worth fighting for. The lessons learned through baseball of leadership, teamwork, and communication can unite us all, no matter the color of our jersey.
For some, the love of baseball lead to meeting the love of their life. From bonding over game statistics in high school to now bonding with their children by teaching them the rules of the game. For others, the love of baseball means being a team manager at home and raising young teammates while “coach” is on the road with the student athletes. For me, baseball brings back memories of time spent with the people I love most: Watching with my grandpa, on a date with my husband, and now playing with my son on the makeshift diamond in the backyard. So take me to the game and let’s root for the home team because whenever I’m home, I’m with you.