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I can’t get over how much there is to talk about with everything going on right now. There seemed to be stretch with such a dearth of news about anything that I really cared about. No real football news, Alabama being out of basketball for a year, performing my absolute worst ever in the tournament pools, and the start of baseball – which typically I couldn’t care less about made it a tedious stretch. Then, in a span of about four days, all of that changed.
A-Day is three days away. There is basketball drama all of a sudden. The NCAA Final was exciting. But I think that the biggest thing was the whirlwind sports weekend that I had that got everyhting spinning in my mind like it is. So, I’m gonna start there and then I work through the other things.
While I grew up in Tuscaloosa and am prod to call it home, I was actually born in Atlanta and most of my extended family is in and around the metro area. My grandparents lived about an hour from downtown and when I was a kid we often went to sporting events in A-town. In fact, all of my experience with sports other than Alabama football took place in Atlanta. So the town has always had a special place in my heart and while it is common for people in this area to pull for the Braves, I have always felt that my allegiance was a little more purebred than the run-of-the-mill fan who liked them because they were so good for so long or that for a long time, at least around here, they were the only team you could see on television or hear on the radio with any regularity.
In 1982 I was in elementary school and the Braves were on TBS. There were not many games that I didn’t watch. That was also the year that my dad took me to see them play a lot. I was the typical kid. Little League, baseball cards, and hero worship. My hero then was Dale Murphy. Dale Murphy and my Dad. The 82′ season was the year that I remember connecting with my dad; we finally had something in common with our love for the Braves and we spent a lot of time in the car driving between Tuscaloosa, my grandparents’, and Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. That has been 26 years ago but I can still tell you that Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Bruce Benedict, Chris Chambliss, Rafeal Ramierez, Claudell Washington, Brett Butler (before he was traded to Cleveland) played on that team. (I swear I didn’t look that up – I can’t remember the second baseman even though I can see his face.) I saw Phil Niekro, Gene Garber, Pascual Perez and Al Hrabosky, the “Mad Hungarian” pitch. I saw Tommy Lasorda manage the Dodgers and Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Garvey, and Pete Rose play. The world revolved around baseball at that time and I loved every minute of it.
Sitting in the outfield seats, keeping score in my program ,enjoying being a kid with his best friend and the muggy summer nights in Atlanta. Old enough to begin taking in the world around me and still young enough to believe that it held magic for you if you believe hard enough. Knowing that one of your heroes was going to hit it out of the park his next time at bat and that your other hero would make sure that you caught it or catch it for you if that magic shot made it to your seat.
Dale Murphy is still a hero of mine and my Dad has begun to return to that status now that I realize how solid he has been his whole life. Truth be told, Dad deserves to be a hero for much different and better reasons. See, I think Murphy gave me something to dream about as a child, but Dad took care of the small things so all I had to worry about was dreaming and more importantly when some of those dreams didn’t pan out he was part of the solid foundation that I could rely on till I could gather myself up and start toward the next dream.
And so as I settled into my seat in Tuner Field on Sunday afternoon that’s where my mind was. Thinking about a little kid and his dad. I hadn’t been to a game in almost ten years. Honestly, I had quit caring about the game. It wasn’t the same to me as it had been. I no longer followed every move of the team or the sport. Football is much more exciting and I am sitting in the middle of it here. Life keeps moving on and seems to get busier and I had just stopped making time for baseball. But on this somewhat cool day in Atlanta baseball reminded me just what is so great about it.
Baseball is a game for fathers and sons. Baseball is easy. It isn’t complex – you throw, hit, and catch. You and your dad can do that after work and we often did. Also there are so many chances for beauty in the game. You sit through the monotonous parts for the big payoff, like the home run or the double play, that makes it spectacular. Those occasions of being down and battling back make it so exciting. It’s a lot like life in those ways. And it is that much better if you’re sitting next to someone you love while it’s going on. In fact those single events are fairly empty in and of themselves. It’s the sharing them with a friend, or your child, or wife, or your dad that make them really special. On this April day I was reminded that there is still a little magic.
Despite the absence of new posts in the last week, I haven’t given up on this. It’s just been, to borrow a friend’s expression, “turbo-busy”. The work load has gotten a little better as we completed a few projects that had deadlines early this week but the
40 60 hour work week is looking a little better.
In spite of working a lot we have begun little league this week. My oldest son is playing coach pitch and- despite my strong desire not to help this year- I am helping with his team because the regular coach has virtually no help. I am also coaching my youngest son’s team because I wanted him to have the same great experience that his brother had and I didn’t know any of the other folks coaching in his division as was the case with his brother.
As you could imagine “coaching” a group of four and five year old children is not really coaching. It’s more like babysitting. Herding cats is a better description and with the use of aluminum bats and projectiles it can be quite nerve racking. Half of the eleven kids on the team cried at some point during practice, including mine. And no it wasn’t because I was yelling at them. They were upset because they wanted to hit or someone had beaten them in the race to field a grounder.
Please don’t mistake me for some crazy, living-through-my-child type dad. I think four is too young to start organized sports. My oldest son did not start until he asked me to play, but my youngest watched his older brother play and absolutely loved it. Last year, at barely three, he was setting up the tee in the back yard, hitting the ball, and running bases all by himself (with his mom or me watching of course). So, when he was old enough to play it seemed like a crime to tell him he couldn’t.
Saturday was the first practice and he was awake and standing beside my bed with his baseball pants already on at 6:45 in the morning asking if it was time to play baseball yet.
It takes a lot of time but it is great time with the two coolest people that I know. On days when we have a game or practice in the evening, work seems to go a little quicker and even though the whole ordeal is tiring, it is a good tired.
I am proud to say that in the three years I have been doing this I have only missed one of my son’s games and that was because I was out-of-town. I was never that great at any type of sport and I am sure that watching me play was brutal at times but I don’t remember very many games, if any, that my father was not in the bleachers or dug out watching me. That has always meant a lot to me.
I am proud to say that this weekend will be the first that I will not have worked (in the office) since some time in February (I hope). And to top it all off I am taking Monday off.
A good friend has asked me to go to the Braves game – where Smoltz will make his season debut against two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana- in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon, then we are going to take full advantage of Sunday liquor sales that afternoon, before crashing in A-town Sunday night. Monday morning we are headed to Augusta to watch some of the practice round for the Masters.
I couldn’t be more excited. Unless of course Alabama was playing Saturday. Wait, they are playing, albeit against themselves, next Saturday. Things are looking up.