I’m up. The still chilly morning air delivers the distinctive scent of slaughterhouses in the vicinity. Hourly freight trains rumbling under my motel bed springs punctuated a typically sleepless night. Waze initially predicted a relatively painless 90-minute trip from San Francisco yesterday, but mercilessly stretched us out towards the business end of a four-hour slog. “Rick,” our broad-smiling server at last night’s chain restaurant steakhouse, evidently has never actually tasted the uncooperative “signature steak.” Nor recognized a flat beer with the telltale, physics-defying meniscus.
I’m sacrificing another weekend to the Gods of travel baseball. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m under no illusion that the ironically and iconically-named “Big League Dreams Park” will make any such dreams come true. Perhaps that hasn’t always been the case, but now five or so years into this, I’ve come to realize why I’m here and what’s important. In the early days of my kids’ travel ball journey, I would eagerly press my ass into a green plastic seat for hours, cheering madly, clapping ’til my hands stung, and occasionally groaning about this umpire’s call or that opposing team coach’s strategem. I would text my wife between pitches, updating her when one of my sons inhaled. Then exhaled. Then inhaled again. And oh, look, another inhale! And I admit to letting my mind wander to high school, college and even beyond. It all hangs on this next pitch, this next ground ball, this next secondary lead.
Now I pull my collapsible canvas chair aside the outfield fence. And I watch as if I were home watching TV. Clapping occasionally, but in a way that springs from some pleasure I am experiencing in the moment. Not really as a way of communicating with my son out there or with the other players.
I’ve realized it’s not about “big league dreams.” It’s about my little guys and I listening to a long book on tape during an otherwise weary drive (“The Martian” last night). It’s about seeing a genuine, shit-eating grin from the other side of the table (pictured above). No matter that given the cuisine at-hand, that smile has never been more literally descriptive. It’s about the new James Bond movie we’ll catch this afternoon, taking pleasure in sharing fistfuls of butter-greased movie popcorn. There might be some baseball along the way, but I’m here to soak in the little joys of being a dad to a boy enjoying the last couple weeks before double digits.
Though I may still send a text or two when he inhales. Or exhales.
Thanks for reading.