Wednesday, June 5, 2013

It's Who You Know, When You Play

"I love playing baseball with Theo and Jim," my son smiled at me.

"Me too," I smiled back.

As a point of clarification, I don't actually play - and neither does Jim, really. Jim coaches his son's team, one that my son had been on since he started Little League. This year, my son is on another team so now the boys occasionally play opposite one another. No matter. We all hug when we arrive, same when we leave, and our family can't help but root for Jim's son, Theo, when he's up to bat or on the mound. (This makes for some funny looks from the parents on our side of the field, especially when our Sam is batting against Theo, but we're o.k. with that.)

After the last game we had together I asked Sam what he and Theo were talking about during the game. Sam plays third and Theo had reached on a steal so they had a few moments to chat. I'd admonished Sam for what I suspected was some friendly trash-talking but he corrected me and said that both he and Theo's dad, Jim, were joking around, teasing Theo for some thing or another.

Jim's actually good for a few editorial comments during a game and most of them make me smile ear-to-ear. In this last game, one of our players made a gravity-defying play at 1st after which Jim remarked loudly to his team, "OK, you saw that, so when you get up there don't hit to R." I'm sure the kids wondered whether he was being serious or silly. He was being both.

That's because Jim totally gets it. He totally, completely, entirely gets baseball. He gets it and he loves it. You can feel that love coming right off of him and spreading out onto the field and running over the bases with the kind of glee only sticky-fingered toddlers understand. When Jim plays catcher to his son's pitches during warm-ups you can tell his son is feeling his dad's love for him. It's in the touch of leather against leather and the smell of dust and the pale of waning sunshine. If he doesn't get it then he must during the game. I think Jim levitates sometimes when Theo makes a great play or throws a screamer past an unsuspecting batter. The joy they're sharing with one another on the field tingles in the air around them and you can't help but smile at it and at them. And he's not selfish about it. Jim is just as giddy to see another player have his day, and he's terrible at hiding his thrill. That's what makes it so fun, after all.

By the same token, when Theo - or any player - needs a bit of encouragement or a mild correction, Jim is there with a quiet word or a plain-spoken suggestion. He's not soft, by any means, but you could never say he was hard either. He's just what you would need your dad or your coach to be when you needed him to be just that thing. And Theo's growing into his young man-hood with this dad by his side, stretching and reaching - sometimes away, I'm sure - but showing that good humor, a spirit of fair play and love of the game run deep in this family.

They do in mine, too. And that's why we love playing baseball with Jim and Theo.

No comments:

Post a Comment