“Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat,
And a brand-new pair of shoes.
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.
Just to hit the ball, and touch’ em all, a moment in the sun.”
It’s the darkness without the dawn. The cloud without the silver lining. Abbott without Costello.
My daughter called at the beginning of summer to tell me that my two grandsons, ages 6-plus, had made a decision.
“They’re not going to play baseball this season, Dad. No T-ball.”
“Last year, baseball was really … ” She paused for a second. She knew this was going to hurt. “Well … they were bored. They found it boring.”
My first reaction was to blame her, a subtle maternal plot to undermine the game with her kids. After all, she was the one who sat with me through a Fort Wayne Wizards baseball game, then told me later that around the sixth inning she had come to believe that dying of boredom could actually happen.
But I bit my tongue. I asked, “What are they going to do instead?”
“Soccer. They like it, Dad. They get to run around. It’s fun,” she said.
When I was 6, my two older brothers announced that they were going to start a “Little Little League.” My buddy Tommy from down the street and I were going to be the first recruits.
They gave us gloves the size of waffle irons, took us into our backyard, and hit an old scuffed-up baseball wrapped in black electrical tape at us. Tommy caught a few. I couldn’t catch a cold.
After about 10 minutes, my brothers got another idea into their heads and took off. Tommy went home for lunch.
But I stayed out for another hour at least, hitting the ball all over the yard by myself. Then another hour throwing it against the side of the garage and trying to catch it on the rebound.
And the game had me.
And I wonder: How could baseball not be fun for a kid? And the answer comes pretty quickly.
If a little kid is stuck in right field for 15 minutes looking alternately at the sky and his sneakers without a ball ever coming near him and gets to swing the bat once every 30 minutes to have a gaggle of coaches shouting where to run and when to stop running — it is boring. If not frightening.
Baseball was fun back in the day because it was learned in the anarchy of childhood. Kids playing on any old field, adults an infinity away, rules made up as you went along.
In the collected wisdom of my six decades, I have come to understand that the world, however regrettably, is not the same as when I was a kid. I try not to lecture. I will not become that horror-of-horrors: a hectoring grandfather, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing that anyone wants to hear.
But I worry sometimes that the fun has gone out of a lot of things. Life needs a little anarchy. Especially when you are a kid. But even when you are an adult.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Mt 6:26).
My third grandson, Jonah, is now past his first birthday. I think he needs a glove for Christmas. Or maybe even Labor Day.
“Put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play … today.
Put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play … today,
Look at me, I could be Centerfield.”
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.