Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to hear those beautiful sounds of baseballs hitting the sweet spot of wooden bats, the echo of the catcher’s gloves after blistering fastballs from the pitchers, and the “STEEEERRIIIKE THREE, YER OUT” chants from umpires! Yes, it’s baseball time! Like many other typical males, I have a passionate love for the sport of baseball. I sincerely think sports changes peoples’ lives and plants memories inside them that never die . . . and I am no exception to that belief.
When I think of baseball, I think of my days as a young lad. I grew up on a large farm in a small town in Vermont, during which time my father and I spent a lot of time together working on the daily chores. I’d throw the hay bales off the wagon and he’d retrieve them and stack them neatly in the barn. He’d drive a tractor to mow the fields, and I’d drive the other tractor to rake the fields. I’d clean the barn stalls and feed the calves and pigs, and he’d milk the cows. We spent countless hours on the farm, but never really had any father-son bonding during that time. We never talked much during our farm chores. We would do our thing, then step inside the house, and eat dinner. I would then watch TV or play video games while he would read the newspaper and fall asleep in his chair. This routine was conducted day in and day out.
I was always big into sports, but my father . . . not so much. He had never played sports when he was young. During his youth, he spent all of his time working on a farm. He had no time to participate in sports.
We really didn’t have much to talk about during my pre-teen years. I was still shy and afraid of girls at that point, so that was never a topic of conversation that I could uphold. My father did not follow sports very much, so that was never a topic of conversation that he could uphold. Our bonding was off to a slow start!
But, one summer, when I was 13, our small town decided to start a Babe Ruth baseball team. I had never had the chance to play baseball before, so I was definitely pumped up for this chance. When the announcement was made, all of the boys in our town signed up immediately. We had enough players signed up . . . but we didn’t have a coach.
To my surprise, my father signed up to be the coach. Everything changed after that. He really didn’t know much about baseball, but he did his best to learn the game. He even bought various “how to coach” videos, which we would watch together after farm chores. He would even read more sports magazines so he could get a better grasp of what he got himself into!
Our town was too poor to have its own baseball field, so we had to practice on one of our hay fields. I went out with the lawnmower and mowed the field while my father measured out a baseball diamond on a ground that was anything but level. We had lots of bumps and tractor ruts in that field, but hey, it was our field, so we loved it! I think we spent more times looking for lost balls in ditches than we did playing baseball. If it rained, we’d all play catch inside one of the barns. Heck, on one rainy day, my whole team spent two hours in the barn, unloading and stacking hay! You got to love that! That sure made chores easier for me and my old man on that day!
Before baseball, our nights used to consist of me playing video games and him sleeping on the chair. But things were now different. The relationship between my father and I became much stronger during this time. My father definitely made the most of this time.
Once my father became the coach, we spent every night conversing about our team. We worked out the batting order together; we debated who should be the starting pitcher next game; we discussed what kinds of bats we should use; we computed all of the team stats together; and we would even strategize on when was the best time to play our “less gifted” players without severely hurting our chances to win a game! We even went outside to play catch occasionally. This was the first year that we ever played catch with each other. It took a while for it to happen, but it was definitely worth the wait.
He even drove me to batting cages and pitching clinics to help me out with my skills. When the batting cages were closed, he would throw me batting practice in front of the house. Bad idea! I hit one foul ball that found its way through the kitchen window. That was definitely a hysterical moment for both of us. We laughed until my mother discovered the broken window glass, which then meant “game over . . . come eat dinner.” I eventually became one of the best baseball players in my area and I owe much of that to my father for his time and commitment to my love of the game.
My father was my baseball coach for four consecutive summers. He coached my team until I was too old to play Babe Ruth. Soon thereafter, I finished high school and went off to college . . . and those baseball days were soon a thing of the past. My life has seen 32 summers so far, but the summers that I remember most are those four summers that my father coached my team. What’s better than playing on a team with all of your best friends as teammates and having your father as your coach? You just can’t beat that. To this day, we still recollect stories about those memorable summer days.
Our baseball team won several games during those four seasons. One season, we even won a championship. But that was just gravy. Even if we hadn’t won a single game, it wouldn’t have mattered. The time we spent together was priceless. I wouldn’t trade those four summers away for anything! Those were the best summers of my life!