Spring has arrived and that means warmer weather, planting gardens, house cleaning — and putting away winter clothes.
For many in America, this new season brings a great opportunity to renew or strengthen a bond — the one between father and son. The object of attention that pulls the two together is none other than “America’s Pastime,” the game of baseball. For over a century, men and boys have watched, played and celebrated baseball together, each season bringing new hope and optimism.
Please don’t attack me and call me sexist. I know many women and girls who also love the sport. I have no doubt that many females bond over the game — but this sport has always had a predominantly male fan base. Also, I am relaying my personal experiences with my son. No matter what gender, I hope baseball makes everyone’s family bonds tighter.
I fondly remember watching baseball as a kid. Sadly, I never went to a professional baseball game with my father. He worked in an automotive factory in Philadelphia and didn’t have a lot of free time. We did flip the games on TV at night, though. I will never forget celebrating with my late father when the Phillies won it all in 1980! We jumped and cheered in the streets with many of our whole neighborhood.
Memories of many seasons past are vivid. I distinctly recall attending my dad’s funeral in 2010. It was a sad occasion, but there was some great bonding with the family gathering that week. My oldest and youngest sons were there to say goodbye also. We took the opportunity of being in Philly to attend a baseball game with other family members. Even though it was an unhappy time, those couple of hours with my older brother, sister and our sons at the ballpark that night helped distract us a little.
My youngest boy played baseball for a few years when he was younger. Opening Day for the local ball clubs was always a big event. Everyone wore their new uniforms, which were still free of grass and dirt stains. Team pictures were taken. Last-minute catches were held just off the field, many times between father and son. Coaches instructed from the dugout, as did dads, unofficially, from the bleachers. It seemed every player and his family went out for celebratory meals or ice cream, no matter the result or score.
It always seemed like a good day or night when your child was playing.
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One of the best parts of baseball is teaching your son the game with all the rules and traditions. It can be so frustrating yet rewarding at the same time. Trying to teach your seven-year-old the difference between tagging the base or the player, and when to do which, is like trying to put his 286-piece Lego Star Wars set together without the instruction book. You can do it, but it’s not going to be easy and it’s going to take a lot of time.
Now my son is a teenager and runs track instead. He spends too much time in his room gaming or messaging with friends. There is one thing that will bring him downstairs, though — a good baseball game on TV. He’s watched and played enough to understand the minutiae of the game. We cheer at good plays and cringe at the bad ones. It provides a common ground for us to relate.
The best family time is attending a game together. Although we have driven the three hours to Atlanta to watch the Phillies when in town, some of the best games we’ve attended are minor league events. Here in East Tennessee, we have the Tennessee Smokies, who play just outside of Pigeon Forge. The games are much more affordable than the major leagues. I can buy tickets for the three of us, dinner and a few beers for less than $100. (I could do it for under $75 if we left out the alcohol.)
The length of the season and the pace of the game teach patience.
The minor leagues also have entertainment to draw the crowds. Almost every game we have attended as a family has ended with a firework display or a concert. We have even attended games where we could sleep on the field overnight in our tent. We always leave with smiles on our faces.
I love football, and enjoy hockey and basketball. However, when it comes to a sport for the family, especially for the father/son relationship, there is nothing like baseball.
The new season brings hope. The length of the season and the pace of the game teach patience. Top plays and fluke occurrences provide jaw-dropping moments. Playoffs and races cause enthusiasm and most times, disappointment. Your team winning it all is sheer jubilation. Experiencing any or all of this with your son is priceless.
And there’s always next season, too.
John Cylc is an eight-year U.S. Army veteran and lives with his family in eastern Tennessee. His primary advocacy is promoting and protecting Second Amendment rights.