Here it comes, don’t miss it
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This time I’ll have to give the Tennessee Smokies props on the promotion.
There are times I can’t help but mentally shake my head at some of the things minor league teams in general, but baseball’s especially, come up with for the fans. Today’s isn’t one of them. The Smokies are opening the gates a little early this afternoon and before the Cubs’ AA affiliate take the field, they’re letting those fathers and sons or dads and daughters that bring a glove and ball play catch on the field before pregame warmups.
Sure it’s a little gimmiky but it’s also touching on a ritual that has served as a family bonding tool for generations. At heart it’s a quiet one-on-one moment that goes through phases like life.
I can remember my grandfather taking me down to the flat spot at the bottom of his yard after the heat of the afternoon had passed, and patiently throwing a ball back and forth as he taught a little guy who barely came up to his belt, the motion and patiently chased down all the wild ones before the word control sank home.
Over those years, before all the real home work and those dramas that seem so vital to a teenager began to interfere, the baseball time was when a lot of questions got asked and answered.
That’s the therapeutic beauty of the simple action of throwing a ball back and forth. It probably transfers to a game of horse in the driveway, tossing a football or passing a soccer ball but in those moments, dad can leave everything else behind and children — son or daughter — can see him more as the friend they can ask anything of as the mask of disciplinarian is set aside for a glove.
It isn’t limited to just dad either.
I’m reminded of the softball player who after putting down a game-winning hit one night told me after the game about how she got interested in softball because she and her working single mother started throwing a ball together just so they could talk.
While step children don’t come with a manual, an old baseball and two gloves have helped ease many a challenging transition.
These days it’s almost more a symbol of the activity. While a Wii controller isn’t a ball, there’s the possibility of that same time together knocking around bobble-headed pitchers on the living room TV in Home Run Derby. It isn’t exactly the same but the digital family of today isn’t the nuclear one that enshrined a game of catch in our culture.
I confess I don’t spend enough time throwing the ball — computer-generated or actual — around with those I should. I hope to change that before I miss the chance completely and come to regret it.
So if today’s plans aren’t set yet, think about digging around for those gloves and tossing the ball back and forth with dad for a few minutes. It’s a simple action that can mean a lot for the one who drove you to those practices at Little League or developed an almost unhealthy interest in chalk and quick dry as a voluntary member of the grounds crew. The ugly tie or gift card won’t say as much as sharing a little time together spent in a mixture of companionable silences and the honest talk beyond the table punctuated by the slap of ball into mitt.
“You ready? I’ll throw it easy.”
“Here it comes, don’t miss it.”
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com