We’ve just finished my first season as a Baseball Mom. I’m not exactly new to the sports scene, as I am raising a football player whose jersey I’ve been stain-treating for many years now. But this was our first season of baseball, and that, my friends, was a whole different ball game.
My son’s dad loved football in the core of his being, and he instilled that deep love into our oldest son before he died six years ago. In my years as a single mom, in my determination to not flee from the things I didn’t understand, Tuck and I walked carefully onto the sidelines of his first football team. I learned important things. For example, it’s called practice, not rehearsal. They wear uniforms, not costumes. And it’s called eye black, not football mascara.
A year ago, I married Peter, the new dad our family had long prayed for. He brought a whole new heartbeat to our family, including a passion for baseball. He helped Tucker to understand that a man need not isolate with just one sport, and he educated us all with the names of many dual athletes, like John Elway, Michael Jordan, and most interesting to my Bronco-loving boy, Tim Tebow. He taught us all that the same arm that throws a touchdown pass can also pitch a shut-out inning.
And so, on the heels of the football playoffs, we signed up for our family’s first season of baseball. Peter was Coach, and I was the Coach’s Wife. There I was, launched yet again into the throes of a new vocabulary. I soon learned that they score runs, not points. The team is in the dugout, not the sidelines. Some items are transferable, like Gatorade and sunscreen. But I’m still not allowed anywhere near the field, even if my player gets hit in the face with a pitch. (That was a rough day.)
I have to admit, when practices started while there was still snow on the ground in February, the season felt daunting. Football gave us one game a week; baseball sometimes called for two or three games in a weekend. In those early days, I felt like the end of the season was a whole marathon away. I wasn’t sure when we’d ever have a free weekend or even dinner together.
But now it’s over, and I’m sad. It can’t be over yet, not when I just learned how to recognize my player from a hundred yards away with the sun shining in my eyes, how to spot him in a sea of red baseball caps. It took me weeks to learn the first names that go with the numbers on their jerseys without having to check the list on my phone, only to then learn that the best coaches give each player a nickname, so I’d need to begin again.
I really don’t want it to be over yet. My boy was just starting to understand the timing of running hard and fast without stopping to admire how far he had hit the ball. He learned to make the quick costume change when he’s the catcher at the bottom of the second inning and first at bat at the top of the third. I watched my new husband pour endless patience and affirmation to turn a rag-tag bunch of hopefuls into a team who won three games in the playoffs. We were just getting good at this, and now the season has come to an end.
One of Peter’s great loves is baseball of any kind, and I suspect he hoped this season would give me a great love for his season tickets for the Rockies. To his great delight, I am certainly up for attending a few more games than ever before, and he falls in love with me all over again when I use words like pickle and dropped third strike. But I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with the sport as a whole.
No, I think I’m smitten with the learning curve, the joy on a boy’s face when the bat hits the ball for the first time. Or the moment he learns to delight in the pop of the ball as it lands in his glove. I’m in love with the dusty pants and the sunflower seeds. I’m even in love with losing my voice after losing my mind when my son scored a home run. These are the things that kept me on my toes, the reasons I rarely sat down as long as our team took the field.
Tuck said yesterday, “If Dad coaches again, I’d really like to be on his team.” Oh, my sweet boy, what you don’t know is that Peter wasn’t just looking for a team to coach. He was loving the boys he’s raising, teaching you the language he loves. Somewhere along the way, among the Cracker Jacks and the sunflower seeds, he found a team that loved to play.
They say you shouldn’t be sad because it’s over; you should smile because it happened. So I’m smiling as I’m folding the baseball pants, putting the baseball cleats away, and gearing up for next season. After all, it’s time for football season to begin.