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Play Ball

7 December 2006

Anyone who has known me for a while, and has been privy to my conversations of how my own father let me down in one circumstance or another has doubtless heard the story about little league, and how for three years in a row I was interested in joining up with the local little league (all my friends were doing it), but each time sign-ups came around, my dad never got it together. Each time my dad blamed it on not having my birth certificate, but I also have a feeling it might have had to do with the monetary pressures, as we had to live on a limited budget in my youth. Nevertheless, I was given a repeated experience of disappointment that definitively discouraged me against organized sports for the rest of my life.
This year, Eli is old enough to start little league (as I find out, he was old enough last year), but this year I was determined to get him signed up. Normally I wouldn’t bother with organized sports until he was much older, but in this case, Eli has shown some serious aptitude for baseball, mostly through his exposure to the game through Julie’s Uncle Lou. He’s not only fallen in love with the game, but he shows some serious aptitude in both catching and hitting. I’ve seen the kid hit wiffle balls over the back fence — he’s the real deal. In any case, I have been waiting for him to be old enough to try him out on the game, and see how he likes it. I personally don’t know the first thing about baseball, but I’m willing to learn for him. And more importantly, I’m willing to get my crap together and make sure he makes the sign-ups.
Sign-ups were Wednesday night.
Over the last week I’ve been putting together all the document and information needed for sign-ups, and it’s a little intimidating, with the birth certificates of course, but also a utility bill to prove you live in the zip code, mandatory volunteer forms, and a commitment to all sorts of parental involvement and contribution of time and effort… but this is for Eli, and I’ll do it. Of course this week has been nuts, and the last thing that I put together was the actual birth certificate, which I was certain that we had gotten the boys’ birth certificates at some point, but the night before I went search for it and couldn’t for the life of me find it for hours. I went into a panic. I felt in my gut that I was destined to repeat the pattern of my father, to fail in exactly the same way he failed me, and all after I’ve talked with Eli about playing the game, and all after I’ve promised myself I’d never let my son down in the same way. I was distraught, to say the least. I looked online to see how quickly I might be able to replace the birth certificate, but the estimate was 3-5 days, too late to get Eli signed up.
Thankfully, I found the birth certificates buried in a box that was earmarked for filing. Man, do I need to finish that project. In any case, I was saved and my self-respect is intact. I breathed a sigh of relief and tucked in for the night.
The next day, I came home, ate dinner, and around 7:15 I hopped in the car with Eli, as we drove down to St. Vincent’s school just across the freeway and walked all the way to the back of the campus to the cafeteria, where we joined in the fray of fathers and sons (and mothers and daughters, but they were vastly outnumbered) and turned in all our paperwork, money, etc. It took all of maybe 10 minutes to finish up, and other than committing myself to some indeterminate volunteer action in the future, it was pretty smooth.
Walking back out to the car across the courtyard, with the beautiful fountain flowing, and bedtime quickly approaching, Eli stopped me to say ‘Daddy… I love you.’
I’ve broken the cycle. Who knows if Eli will enjoy the activity, if he has any clue what he’s in store for, or if I do for that matter. What matters is, I’ve done my part, and I’ve not fallen down on the job. Raising kids is a hard job, in which you’re always second-guessing yourself, wondering if you’ve done the best you can do, if you’ve screwed up this or that opportunity, if you’ve just been lazy and let a moment pass you by.
In this moment, I’ve hit a home run, and won the game for the team.
Let’s play ball.

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