At the same time Alex Rodriguez gets his first single in the 2013 season, my three little boys (age 6, 4 and 3) are watching “Rookie of the Year” in their bedroom for the 123rd time, and my 17 year-old-son just came home after his friend’s parents got into a fight. I’m reminded just now at how terribly real baseball is to life. The boos and hisses from Chicago tonight at the man who many despise, has easily served as a great learning experience for my oldest, and for me, well I have this eerie feeling that for my little boys where baseball is at its purist, they will learn of this someday and I hope it doesn’t ruin their love.
I love baseball not because I was good at it, or I have fond memories of the undefeated high school baseball team I wasn’t on. I quit baseball in middle school to pursue another sport, my real love, wrestling. I gave it all of me, and it gave back to me too. No, baseball has a very special place in my heart. My boys, all 4 of them (I also have an infant) have this real passion for the game. For a dad who spends his summers at home, baseball has served as the lubricant for me to teach them. They don’t know that though. They don’t know that when I help them open their stance, yes my 3 year old uses two different stances at bat now, that what I’m really doing is preparing them for something so much more. I’m helping them be coachable. Or, more importantly, open for learning. And to a dad who is also a public school teacher, this is important.
My experiences with baseball tainted that love I must’ve had at one point. When I was playing Little League, the competition was really amongst the coaches. We don’t always play by rules and we definitely do not keep score in the back yard. In fact, once one hits the ball, the base path is around the tree, and home plate is where ever you slide—because sliding is fun, of course. This is my love for the game. The joy in the faces of my boys when the wiffle ball smacks the plastic bat, and the determination to run hard and at the end slide, even in the mud.
This is my love for the game. When my 17 year old conquers the fear of pitching in a game that is very important, and the coach brings him in with two on and no outs with the game tied. That particular game was most likely forgotten about by him because those two that were on scored and the other team went on to win. But I will never forget it because that was the game my son learned a very important lesson—not immediately though. I reminded him about that particular game a couple of days after Homer Bailey threw his no-hitter, then went on to have a few pretty crumby appearances. Because my son and I decided on a whim to buy crazy-awesome seats three rows from the Reds’ dugout the very night Homer threw his no-no, I know he will now remember that lesson I could see, but he could not yet. Obviously, that lesson is sometimes you’re on, and sometimes you’re not. There’s no guarantees in baseball.
This is my love for the game. Baseball is my vehicle for what I call “dadding”. Summer, winter, it doesn’t matter. 7 am in the Summer time when they all get up for some weird kid reason, or at 11 pm when one of them can’t sleep because their legs hurt from running and sliding all day, baseball is there. Just the other night, Maddax who is 3 woke up at 10pm because he was hungry. A bowl of cereal and 1 and ½ innings where he could ask a few questions about the game like, “why did the hitter throw the ball, that’s the catcher’s job,” puts his mind at ease and he can relax.
When I look at my life from an outside perspective, I see that as my childhood memories are centered around my family farm, my boys’ lives right now is centered around baseball, and to think about the memories they will have of their childhoods one day is so fulfilling because I know I will be in them, pitching them the ball. For instance, sometimes on the radio a song will come on, and one of the boys will flip out and start dancing and whaling around. I’m like, “what are you doing?” They simply remind me that, “Dad…that’s one of the songs that they play between innings at Bubba’s games!” Bubba is Steven who is my 17 year old. I have so much to thank the game for, and I hope you will enjoy reading these blogs. In the future I will be more specific about certain “dadding” moments through baseball. But for now, if you wear something baseball everyday, know you’re not alone, my boys do too.
About the Author:
Shon Byrum is the father of five boys, 17, 6, 4, 3, and .6. He also teaches the Social Studies at the middle and high school levels. One time, while he was a young boy on his parents’ farm, Shon and his brother watched a movie about baseball that inspired them to create a baseball diamond in their father’s cornfield. We were assigned a summer’s worth of farm work as punishment, but accomplished a passion for the game. Shon is currently awaiting his “payback” from his own boys.