Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Delightful Day in the Sun

To celebrate the imminent arrival of summer, we go back to June of 2000 for a Daddy D classic. I was moved while watching my son and his great grandfather together at a baseball game:

Jack took in a ball game on a splendid sunlit Sunday. It was the last thing he expected to do. It was the best thing he could have done. His friend Christopher sat beside him, sharing the day. Two guys, worlds apart, bound by blood and baseball.
Jack has been going to games for a while now. He has forgotten more days in the sun than his buddy has ever seen. When pressed for his first baseball memory, Jack can recall seeing Babe Ruth in Shreveport, a rare glimpse of greatness that any child of the 20's would find hard to forget.
Press Chris, and he can go back as far as Mark McGwire's 70-home run season - a summer any child of the 90's would find impossible to ignore.
As the old man nears ninety, memories don't come as quickly or as clearly as they once did, but feelings flow freely as a lazy fly ball lands helplessly and harmlessly into a left fielder's mitt. If he closes his eyes, Jack knows his father is sitting beside him now. It's the day The Babe came to town. Dad doesn't want him to miss this. Jack is a little boy again, just like Chris. A breeze brushes Jack's cheek and breathlessly he is beside his beautiful bride again. He has loved her since third grade, since he was a little boy just like Chris.
Jack's companion is a bundle of memories in the making, a 10-year-old great grandson sharing a Sunday, along with a nacho or two, with someone he finds easy to love. From a distance, they seem an improbable pair. Sitting behind home plate, their caps pulled low over their eyes, at once they're talking about nothing much but saying everything that needs to be said. Examined more closely, it becomes easy to see why they are there. It's simply to be together.
The day swirls around them. Without warning, a blimp floats overhead; an unlikely occurence, to be sure. It seems somehow fitting on a day that has become so unexpectedly extraordinary. A sharp crack rips the afternoon air as a batter makes contact, the thrill of the moment lifting them and their anonymous companions out of a mid-afternoon malaise. A singing rhyme echoes through the stands, a veteran vendor hawking his wares. The little boy nudges the old man. They take it all in with a glance and a smile.
Some might say the ball game is dragging along as the three-hour mark slips silently by; but for Jack and Chris, time stands still. "We had a good day, good seats and good company" is Jack's simple assessment of an elegant afternoon at the ballpark.
But it wasn't so simple, after all. The game became a caretaker, holding at bay the angst of aging while embracing all the wide-eyed wonder of just being ten. That's the responsibility baseball bears: to make sunlit Sundays and moonstruck Mondays at the stadium special. The game is a steward of something that should be spectacular, yet understated: an old man, a little boy and thousands in between having epiphanies at the park, and realizing it subtly but surely.
That's the thing about baseball. Often, the players don't matter. The outcome usually is irrelevant. On this particular Sunday two guys didn't really care who won or lost or that the ace pitcher had to leave the game early.
They can only tell you that they had a great day, great seats and great company.

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