2 Pictures. 27 Years Apart.
Rachel, my book’s editor, is not a sports fan. She recently explained she doesn’t really see the point. And yet the other day she sent me an email that concluded with, “It makes me smile to think of you with your son at the championships.” The championships she referred to were the Pennsylvania State Little League Baseball Championship that Chase was playing in.
As I said last week, Chase’s team advance to the State Baseball Championship. A tournament comprising the top eight Pennsylvania Little League teams and played a few miles north of the Pocono Mountains.
For four days, Chase, my dad, and I talked baseball, watched baseball on TV, went to a minor league baseball game, all while Chase played baseball. We ate every meal together. Spent hours in the car singing along to Bruce Springsteen and traversing through the Pennsylvania mountains together.
It’s said that everything you need to know about life you can learn by watching baseball. I don’t know how true that statement is, but I know that successful baseball players have been conditioned to have “short memories.” Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux once said, “The best players have a short memory and bulletproof confidence.”
Because baseball is a game of failure.
It’s a game where the good players fail slightly less than the average players. And the good hitters hover around a .300 batting average, meaning they only average three hits out of ten at bats. In no other occupation NASA engineer, heart surgeon, pizza delivery boy would failure be so praiseworthy.
In my forthcoming book (…almost done I swear!), there’s a chapter about scoring the winning run in a championship baseball game, 27 years ago, and how my dad was there to witness my pubescent glory.
After the trophies had been awarded, under a pink evening sky, dad and I posed for this picture in May of 1994:
On Sunday night, Chase’s team lost a heartbreaker, 6-5, in extra innings. After the game, Chase, my dad, and I ate in silence at Applebee’s. And later, Chase, with watery eyes, sat on the living room floor and slowly ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie, as if he had just been dumped by his girlfriend. Trying, I assume, to forget what just happened.
However, the next day, in an elimination game, Chase’s team won 3-2 to advance to the semifinal round of the tournament. Chase had the game-winning hit and, although he gave up a single and issued two walks, pitched a scoreless, albeit adventurous, final inning.
After the game, my dad snapped this picture:
What strikes me is how, 27 years apart, the poses have not changed. A father’s right arm tossed around his son. A father’s right hand tight around his son’s right arm. A pair of smiles. A baseball field sprawled in the background. Pictures that may make the nonsports fan smile.
The day after that picture was taken, Chase’s team lost, 6-4, in the semifinals. And like that, the three of us went home.
I find it interesting how a game, which requires a short memory to succeed, has the power to etch such long memories. And I find it interesting that we, like baseball players, are, for better or worse, bound by our memories.
When I look at those two pictures, I shudder at the terrifying speed of time. Yesterday I was a child rounding first base and today I’m a father limping around second base.
If I, by some miracle, were a baseball player, I would probably be in the minors. My memory is too long and confidence too breakable for me to be a productive big leaguer. Over the last few years, as my disease has progressed, I have spent too much time thinking about my physical falls, about my physical limitations, about my inability to physically do the things I once did.
In the 27 years between those pictures. a lot has happened. I’m no longer a 14-year-old boy shaving once a month. No. I shave every three days and, like my dad, I’m a father myself now.
And I realize capturing a baseball victory is not the point of those pictures either. Capturing a permanent moment between a father and his son, both beaming with pride, both beaming with love–that is the point.
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