Last night George ran past Pierce Field, the big park less than a block from our house where we spent hundreds of hours over the years watching and coaching baseball. A high school JV game was finishing up. Someone got a little teary with nostalgia. It wasn’t me.
It’s true that, although our little slugger Riley is now a college freshman, we still find ourselves drawn to that diamond. Seeing the kids out again this spring in their still-clean uniforms stirs something sentimental in George.
It reminded me of that entire season that Riley neglected to bring home his baseball socks for laundering, wearing the same nasty pair again and again until they ran off on their own to raise an army of filthy boy clothes dedicated to evil.
George assistant coached with his friends Bill and Dan for little league in spring, a summer league at Ohio State, and a fall travel team. For years on end, about 11 boys and their families committed to seeing each other basically every single day from spring thaw to winter’s first snow. Luckily, they’re all very nice – or at least entirely tolerable – people.
Except this one dad who drove us insane year after year.
But aside from that guy, we became a unit.
I can’t define for sure their opinion of me. They’re tolerant, anyway.
I accidentally took the entire team to a mildly inappropriate film on one occasion (that their parents know of), and I never once volunteered to work the concession stand. That second thing, friends, is the mark of a bad baseball parent.
We had a few catastrophes over the years. There was that game George was nearly tossed for his sass mouth, for example.
And the time Riley took a pitch to the hand, breaking his finger. I had to restrain my oldest sister from rushing the field to aid her suffering nephew.
She did blow kisses to my pre-teen hitter, sitting in the dugout, though. I kid you not. Whether or not Riley was kidded is another matter.
We earned a handful of championships over the years to offset the traumas, though, and shared a lot of sun block, bug spray, and juice boxes. And thanks to Kyle’s mom Beth, we always knew the inning, score, and whereabouts of the next game.
It often felt like there would always be a next game, as little league turned into middle school turned into high school. Riley even umped for a few summers.
George really misses it. How can I tell? Because he just bought wiffle balls and bats for our nieces, ages 4 and 7, who’ll come for a visit this summer. No doubt he’ll have them set up with uniforms, cleats and gloves by the time they actually get here in July. “Vivian’s a lefty!” you can hear him exclaim from time to time.
I miss it, too. But to be honest, this whole meandering down memory lane has done more to fill me with dread over the potentially filthy situation with Riley’s socks than anything.