October 8, 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Dads (and Baseball) Often Go Awry

I am a huge baseball fan. I have been since my Dad took me to my first Cincinnati Reds game when I was 7 years old and Kal Daniels (No. 28) roamed a few dozen feet from our left-field seats. I still remember the sun's reflection off the pale-green Astroturf and the mound of peanut shells covering our feet. The afternoon air was warm enough to tan our skin, but not hot enough to leave us sitting in puddles of our own sweat. And as my Dad and I left the stadium after my first game, I remember talking about nothing but baseball for the next 24 years (and counting).

Thank you, Dad, for changing my life.

I learned a lot about myself that day. I learned that a) I wanted to grow up to be a baseball player b) If that didn't work out, I was definitely going to spend all my adult money on season tickets and c) drinking Mt. Dew through Twizzlers was the most genius idea my dad had ever had.

Of course, that was all before I realized that the plans you make as a kid aren't always the same plans you follow as an adult. They get redesigned over and over again—by family, by friends, by college, by that girl whose smile shines nearly as bright as the ring you put on her finger–until one day you wake up and you say, "Holy crap! What happened?" My dreams of playing baseball are trapped inside a 31-year-old body that's suited less for making head-first slides and more for playing Patty Cake. My adult money isn't spent on season tickets; it's spent on diapers, doll babies and Halloween-themed footed pajamas. My Twizzler/Mt. Dew combo is no more due to the recent ballpark sponsorship switch to Coke.

So when my beloved Cincinnati Reds finally made the playoffs again this year—the first time this has happened since I've been legally allowed to drive—to play the Philadelphia Phillies, I became a kid all over again. I spent hours deciding which Reds shirt to wear. My girls and I discussed whom we would cheer for the loudest, my favorite player (Brandon Phillips), Ella's favorite player (Joey Votto) or Anna's favorite player (Jay Bruce). The collective answer was: Dad, are you really going to make us watch this all night?

I let them off the hook and met my friends to watch the game. Our beers were cold. Our hearts were warm. Our hands were in prime high-fiving position. When the first pitch was thrown, we cheered loud enough for the team to hear us all the way in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it was the last time we cheered the entire game.

Inning after inning, the Reds were shut down. One-two-three. One-two-three. One-two-three. I watched in denial as every Reds player grounded out and every heart in the bar sank faster than a Roy Halladay breaking ball. The moment I had waited for 15 years to enjoy, the one that started years before on a warm Sunday afternoon at the ballpark with my dad, ended as my favorite player grounded out to the catcher completing the second no-hitter in baseball postseason history.

Unfortunately, we sat on the wrong side of history.

My friends and I hung our heads in disbelief as the Phillies formed a giant man-hug on the pitcher's mound. We were crushed. We didn't have an opportunity to cheer. We didn't have an opportunity to high-five. We barely had an opportunity to finish our drinks before the game was over—it had all happened so fast.

The car ride home was awful. I couldn't turn on the radio, as every station was talking about the game, or the CD player, as it contained a special REDS PLAYOFF CD I'd filled with 17 consecutive tracks of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'". Worse yet, as I looked out the window all I saw were waves of slow-moving Reds jerseys walking down the street, dulled by the sad faces that accompanied them.

But like I said before: Life never goes according to plan. I planned to be a baseball player—but I didn't. I planned for the Reds to get more than zero hits in their game—but they didn't. I planned to come home and be in a grumpy mood the rest of the night—but I wasn't. When I got home, it took only my littlest daughter throwing her arms around me and yelling "Daddy!" to remind me that baseball is a part of who I am, but it isn't the biggest part of who I am. I may talk about it constantly (to the chagrin of my wife) and pretend I still play it (every week at softball), but I have a new love interest now: my kids.

And that is even better than drinking Mt. Dew through a Twizzler.

ORDER NOW (GREAT GIFT FOR DADS):
Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

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6 comments:

jennifer said...

very cute :) however...whoever voted for "who are the reds?"...not cool.

Anonymous said...

This has to be one of my all-time favorites. Not only did you sneak in your Reds commentary, but it was an insight as to who you were and how you've grown up. Best yet, because of the focus on family, from when you were the little boy at the game with your dad, to coming home to the "biggest part of who I am" -- it was in a way, a tribute to Granpa. Very fitting, given that Grandpa's birthday started this month off and I can't imagine any column you've written that would make him prouder!!!

Anonymous said...

You were screwed the minute you said you saw Kal Daniels play

Anonymous said...

Thanks! to you and Thanks to my Dad! I was 7 years old too, but the year was '63. Dad took me to Crosley for a double-header vs. the Giants. I still remember him saying to me, "...pay special attention to number 24 - he'll be in the Hall of Fame some day..."

Elizabeth Kaylene said...

Yikes. I don't pay attention to baseball, but it still sucks to see your team lose so bad. I'm a football girl and my Colts lost the first game of the season pretty badly. The good thing is, there are always more games, and the dynamics of the teams change every year; a shitty team can be good the next season, and a good team can turn shitty. (Not to say the Reds are shitty, because I really have no idea, but you get my drift, right?)

Anyway, glad your girls cheered you up!

mc6pack said...

Really enjoyed this piece, Brian. Glad I discovered your blog through my Writer's Digest newsletter.

"Our beers were cold. Our hearts were warm. Our hands were in prime high-fiving position." Love that repetitive structure. And it sort of reflects one's attitude when heading into the game of life, too. It's not all cold beers and warm hearts and high-five-worthy moments. Sometimes it's getting no-hit.

Look forward to reading more.

Take care,

Chase McFadden

http://SomeSpeciesEatTheirYoung.com