A couple of weeks ago I read an article on Six-Pound, Eight-Ounce Baby Joba written by Kevin S about his love for the game of baseball. After reading this article, I began to ask myself the same question.
Why do I love baseball?
This question has been going through my mind a lot lately and often those around me comment on my passion for a game that possibly goes beyond normal.
Recently being married and becoming a father to a 13-year-old girl, my life has changed considerably and easily for the better. Of all the changes that have taken place in my life, one thing has remained constant—baseball.
I have shared my love for the game with my new wife and daughter. They both have been very supportive of my habit and have even taken quite a liking to the game. One could say that they have grown to like the game, another may argue that they tolerate it because there are worse habits a husband and father could have.
Others might just say that it's not that difficult to get a 13-year-old girl to like Derek Jeter. In the end it doesn't matter why they watch, only that they do.
The question still remains: Why do I love baseball?
In order to get to the root of this question, I would have to flashback to my youth. Growing up as the youngest of six children raised by a divorced mother in her mid-30s with four of her children remaining in the household, times were often tough.
The '70s were not a time when "working mothers" existed and women had careers. For the most part, mothers were mothers and for that reason a single mother raising four children on less-than-moderate income can present many challenges, especially in the area of income.
In elementary school, I can remember approaching the end of the school year with a certain hesitant happiness. While any elementary-aged child looks forward to summer vacation, it was not as easy to be excited when the chatter amongst your schoolmates turned to their summer plans.
While most of those in my classes were preparing for the vacations and trips to the beaches and amusement parks, my slate remained clean. Sure, I would join in the conversation and grossly exaggerate my summer plans, as any child would, but the fact was our family just could not afford the luxuries of a vacation or a trip to the amusement park.
As jealous as I was, deep down inside I was fine because it was baseball season and when Little League ended, we would watch the Yankees on television.
As an adult, I have increasingly become aware of some of the strategies my mom implemented when I was young in an effort handle certain situations. I share them daily with my daughter because they are valuable lessons on how to treat people, material possessions, and how to work hard to get the things you most desire in life.
I now look back on baseball as one my mother's strategies.
Did my mother love baseball? I believe she did. Did my mother use that love of baseball as a way to compensate for those things that it was just impossible to provide? No doubt about it. I may even argue that she tricked us but in the long run, that is quite okay.
There were two things that took major priority on the Miles family television—that one time a year when the Wizard of Oz was on and the Yankees. I remember preparing for Yankee games by getting my score pad ready, pencil sharpened. I would then mark every ball and strike from the first pitch to the last. Sometimes I would laugh, others I would cry.
Watching the games, I was often confused by Phil Rizzuto's stories about his dear wife Cora and canolies from Brooklyn. My confusion would subside and I would jump off the chair in excitement when he would bark out is trademark "Holy Cow" or call someone a "Huckleberry."
I remember the excitement of watching George Brett rushing out of the dugout in a rage that I have never seen in a baseball game after having his potential game winning home run taken away in the infamous "Pine Tar Incident."
I was elated by the moments that have been captured and preserved forever.
I will never forget Bucky Dent crushing the whole city of Boston with one swing long before there was a Red Sox Nation. I marveled at Reggie Jackson destroying three straight pitches for home runs against the Los Angeles Dodgers, not to mention the countless Reggie Bars that I ingested soon after.
With great joy also came the "agony of defeat," which never sat well.
Watching Reggie drop a simple fly ball in the 1981 World Series was heartbreaking, but nothing compared to the death of the Yankee captain Thurman Munson.
Equally painful was the tribute paid to him by his teammates a day later as they stood in their respective positions for a pre-game ceremony, the catcher's box noticeably empty. Our family gathered around the television as if he was one of our very own family members.
I remember Thurman's death well and remember it being the first time I ever saw my big brother, the brother who, to an 11-year-old was invincible, cry.
My love for baseball obviously did not end as I grew older. I relished in the aftermath of the 1996 World Series and three more to follow. I also felt the unimaginable pain of the hated Red Sox—not only coming back from a three-game deficit to beat the Yankees, but to go on to win the 2004 World Series.
Losing was one thing, but watching the Red Sox win was pain in a whole new category.
So, the question remains, why do I love baseball?
The answer has several layers, one part being the thrill of the game combined with the absolute uncertainty of the outcome—combined with the memories made while watching the games as a child and those I continue to create as an adult.
As a child, game after game would go by and I wouldn’t think about the vacations and amusements parks I was missing out on. Those things didn't matter because the Yankees were on and we were going to be watching. It would have been very easy for us as a family to concentrate on what we were missing out on, but truth be told, looking back on it I do not think we missed out on anything.
While it is true that those friends that I, as an 11-year-old, was once jealous of, have valued memories from their summer vacations, I have memories from my youth that cannot be replaced, and many of them were created watching baseball.
I have learned that where you were able to create the memory is not nearly as important as with whom it was created.
As an adult I still sit on the edge of my seat while watching baseball. Sometimes I am sitting with friends and sometimes with my family. Regardless of who is sitting next to me, I love the game.
I love that I am creating more memories but I especially love that it helps to keep the memory of my mother alive and reminds me of the strategy she implemented so long ago—a strategy to raise her children not to focus on what they didn’t have, but to appreciate what they did have and for us that was baseball.