Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Big Papi

This weekend was Jackson's first day of rookie league baseball practice. I basically had to drag him there.

That will probably make a lot of parents cringe, and there are several of us that had parents that were rabid sports fans, that basically did the same thing, forcing their boys to play sports they had an interest in.

I get it. I really do.

But instinct is telling me to make him play.

Here's my thinking. My son is a negative thinker. I have to work on that, but his answer to almost any question is the opposite of what he thinks you want him to say. Unless he is wholeheartedly convinced that the upcoming activity is one that he will love more than a hot steaming stack of pancakes, he will refuse to do it. And nine times out of ten, when he does it, he loves it.

It doesn't always work that way, but if you were the kind that plays life by the odds...

The first time I hit a home run, it took me totally by surprise. I wore the green uniform of the Jaguars, a fifth grade little league team in Akron, Ohio. Everyone else had been playing since they were in tee-ball, but this was my first year. I didn't realize that when the ball goes into the deep weeds, it was an automatic home run. As I rounded third base, the base coach laughed himself to coughing as I booked by at top speed, he trying to tell me to slow down.

I shared the home run title with Mark McKenzie.

There might be better feelings in the world, but if I had to choose one to hold on to, that might be the one. Your team meets you at home plate, and suddenly, where you were just one of the guys, for a while, you are the only guy, the hero of the moment.

I've hit others since, and of course now I've learned to trot, and treat it like another day at the office, but it still feels great.

I can't explain that to my son. But I know in my heart that when he takes that first stroll around the bases, he will know. He might not thank me right then, but somewhere in the back of his mind, he will remember the time that dad dragged him to practice.

Or not.

That's the gamble.

So during practice, Jackson, like all the players, filled out a questionnaire, determining how much he knew about the game.

Oops. I watch football, and can't really be bothered with watching baseball, though it's my favorite sport to play. I felt like I had failed him in a small way.

Name: Jackson
Nickname: Dominick (I scratched this out and wrote: Jax)
Thing you like least about baseball: Red Sox
Favorite baseball team: Red Sox
Favorite baseball player: Tom Brady

He heard me telling his mother about this and said defensively, "Well I don't know anything about baseball!"

Great, I was making fun of my son. "No, Jackson," I said, "I thought it was really cute."

He seemed mollified by this. I continued, "It's my fault because I've never once even watched a game with you."

I turned on the TV, and wouldn't you know that the Red Sox were playing the Yankees. Perfect.

I paused the TiVo when they showed the line up and explained everything that we saw. He snuggled next to me on the couch, and I was surprised to find that he was getting into it. Not to mention that, being in first grade, he is able to read progressively harder words as the year goes by.

"What does DH mean?"

"Designated Hitter." I looked at the player name playing DH, and it was none other than David Ortiz. "Now if you want to have a favorite player, you could do a lot worse than Big Papi. He is always smacking homers in clutch situations."

And then, as if by divine intervention, Big Papi crushed the ball over the right field fence, putting the Sox ahead, where they would stay for the rest of the game.

Yesterday he told me that he wants to see a game, and that maybe we could bring our mits, catch a ball, and have Big Papi sign it.


Beth said...

Wow, Scott, I've been there. I forced both of my children to play sports when they were young, which included baseball. I felt bad, but I still made them do it. Gosh, I feel terrible admitting that. I can tell you my son now hates all sports and my daughter is a track star who wishes she wasn't. I don't know. I never had a moment in the sun in the world of sports. I just wanted them to try it all before they decided it wasn't for them.

magnetbabe said...

That questionnaire had me in hysterics! You have to give him credit to recognize that your team can be the most rewarding and the most frustrating thing about baseball at once. So very true.

Here's my two cents about making kids play sports. When I was little, my parents made me do two things: go to piano lessons and play softball (my dad was a musician, my mom was a baseball fan). Like all kids I grumbled about going to piano lessons because I had friends to play with and much more important things to do. I absolutely threw fits about playing softball because I was awful. AWFUL. Still, I love baseball but hate playing sports because basically I suck. As long as I just mildly grumbled about piano, they made me keep going and I am thankful they did because I am still an impressive player. They made me finish out the season on the softball team (it taught me you can't let your team down because they need warm bodies in the outfield even if those warm bodies can't play worth a damn) and never made me play sports again. And I'm not traumatized in the least by it.

Good luck, Jax!

Jaye Wells said...

Tom Brady's my favorite baseball player, too.

I was thinking about the movie Parenthood while I read this. There's just something about dads and sons bonding over baseball.

Mr. Jaye doesn't watch the game, but he really enjoyed volunteering for my son's tball team.

Scott said...

Beth - That's my nightmare come true. We'll see. What can I really do? Like a said, it's all a gamble.

Nat - If nothing else, I think my kids, like you, will understand later why I did it. I might hit on all cylinders, you know?

Jaye - Troy Aikman was the best to ever play the game, so hush your mouth.

amberdusk said...

What a great story! I can tell he has your wit with that questionaire..... haha
Also if he ends up not liking it at least you two had that special moment watching tv.

mr. schprock said...

I'd like to see Tom Brady on the Sox.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

That questionaire was brilliant!


briliantdonkey said...

Great story even if I remove my extreme biasedness to anything 'redsox'. He could certainly do worse than Big papi who always strikes me as a kid still playing the game.


Anonymous said...

That's a nice story, Scott.

(But I always hate baseball, and resented my parents making me go to it all those years. If he likes it let him go, but if he loses interest don't force him to keep it up.)

Bernita said...

Raising kids is constant judgement call.

Kathleen said...

Too freaking cool! I remember my first baseball game. The Tigers were playing the hated Yankees (even back then I knew to hate them) and Gates Brown came in to pinch hit late in the game (I think it was 1975) and he hit a home run. I was POSITIVE that home run was for me. To this day the Gater is one of my favorite Tigers of all time (Aurelio Rodriguez would probably be #1 - I loved that black glove of his).

jenbeauty said...

So awesome and I smiled through the whole reading Scott!! Seeing the "a ha" moment in their eyes, for me, means everything!

In my opinion its our job as parents to force some things on our children. Can't know if you like something unless you try it, that goes for veggies as well as any other activity in life.

Alan said...

I'm seeing it through his eyes. He wants your company and your approval, and you're giving him both. A boy couldn't be more lucky.

I may be late in saying the following; Collate these vignettes about you, your children, and your father. I think there's a place in the market for A Father's Tale and your voice is genuine and awesome. I'm inspired every single time I read it.

However, for my own personal wants, where's Big Mami? Has your wife specifically requested you not blog about her? I want the whole picture, if you're so inclined to give it. :-)

Jada's Gigi said...

yeah, sometimes you have to make them give things a try...after a while you will be able to tell if they love it and want to keep on or if its run its course...I made all mine try an instrument and a sport...they all enjoyed sports, never became all stars at anything..but my girls can talk more football than their dates..:)and that's just the beginning of their sporting enjoyment..neither of the girls stuck with the music but my son is a professional saxophone player...whoda thunk it..:)Besides who doesn't like a real life baseball game?!?
That questionnaire was great!

The Zombieslayer said...

Tom Brady? That's classic.

I'll take your side. You got to sometimes force a kid to do something. If at the end he doesn't like it, then it's too bad. But if he ends up liking it, great!

I was an athlete. My parents forced me to take piano lessons. I fought and fought, and eventually they gave up. You have no idea how much today I regret them giving up.

Sam said...

There is no manual for raising kids, and they're all totally different. My husband is a professional polo player, and our sons really can't stand horses. Our daughter, on the other hand, wants to be a show jumper, which my husband hates, lol.
One of my sons always wanted to play hockey - for years he begged us, but the problem is that there were no skating rinks nearby, and the cost of joining the hockey club was too high. He finally settled on Taikwando, and loves it.