Monday, May 18, 2009

Girls Love Baseball

Ten year old Birthday Girl, Seattle Mariners v. Detroit, April 18, 2009. photo Chelsea Wendel/Group News Blog.
Ten year old Birthday Girl, Seattle Mariners v. Detroit, April 18, 2009.
photo Chelsea Wendel/Group News Blog.

Daughters, Parents, and Baseball

The first really big purchase I made as a single Dad was baseball tickets.

The first year the Mariners were in SafeCo I bought a quarter-season between third base and the outfield foul line, field level. My kids loved it, coming early, shagging balls. By then Avian, my oldest was maybe 13-14, Chelsea was 12-13, Kyle was 10-11, and David was 7-8. They has a blast. So the next year I bought a half-season right behind home plate (weekdays) and wow did the kids and I rock out. Forty games a year; what's not to love?

We kept our half-season tickets for a few years, including the year the Mariner's won the Division Playoffs. Game after game with my kids. Hell, one year we won 116 regular season games! It was wild.

I gave up my tickets the following year, 2002, as I was recovering from neurosurgery and wasn't in any shape to go to the games, plus I had the suicide attempt that May and I wasn't in any condition to go out into large crowds such as down into field level seats. None the less, over the last seven years, I've still gone to one or two games a year, but always up in a suite. Suite's have their own entrance to that level, each suite is restricted to only 15-20 people (and you know in advance whom those people are), and the entire suite level is restricted to people who have suite tickets. In other words, they are an okay place to be for someone who even now always sits with his back to the door, and very much couldn't handle crowds in any way then.

Last month I was given two tickets, field level, between first base and home plate. Beautiful seats. For over seven years I'd always turned down similar seats. This time, I took them. Invited Chelsea, daughter number two, twenty-one, and a sophomore at college. She drove up. We found a parking spot not too damn far away -- $30 freaking dollars just to park, ouch -- and we had a great time.

The game kind of sucked, but the game isn't the point. The point is hanging out with one's daughter (or son, when it's David), eating ballpark food, drinking the sodas (although I pointed out to Chelsea that for the first time in her life she could legally have a beer at the ballpark; she declined...and I don't drink.) So we ate our food, made fun of the other team, watched our pitcher work his pitch total almost to 100 pitches before getting pulled, and talked about old great ball games we'd seen together. We had fun.

Near the end of the game, about the seventh-inning stretch as folks started to head out, a mom and her daughter came down and sat in the row in front of us, just to our left. Turned out it was the girl's tenth birthday and they were at the ballpark to celebrate. She has the Mariner's bag, a Mariner's baseball with "Happy Birthday" written on it, an official Mariner's baseball hat. This kid was in heaven. And she knew her baseball. She was talking who was a good pitcher, who had the stats, interpretation of the rules, even which umpire had a wide strike zone and who didn't. This kid knew her stuff. Smiling, laughing, sitting on her Mom's shoulders, having the time of her life.

Baseball ties generations together. My daughters and I. This mother and her daughter. Fathers and sons from 50-75 years ago and I hope, parents and children 50-75 years from now.

Last week I was driving home. As I cut through a park to avoid a traffic jam, I saw kids in team uniforms playing baseball out on the fresh-cut grass with chalk lines, their parents on the beat-up old bleachers watching them play. Could have been any time in the last 100 years.

Happy Birthday to the ten year old kid. Thanks to my Chelsea for taking time away from her studies to go to a ballgame with her Dad. Hopefully 20-30 years from now that kid (and 10-20 years from now, my own daughters) will take their children and go watch baseball.

There are other sports more fun to play -- soccer, for example. But baseball has a history in this country which brings us all together across the generations in a way nothing else does.

Here's to Baseball -- the great American sport.