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June 3, 2014

Baseball Therapy

Introducing My Daughter to Baseball

by Russell A. Carleton


Pardon me while I close the spreadsheet this week. Last Monday (Memorial Day), I had one of those life-marking moments. I got to take my daughter (N), a couple weeks shy of her fifth birthday, to see her first baseball game. Along with my father and my six-year-old godnephew (P), we made the trek to Turner Field to see an interleague tilt between the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves. To think that when I went to my first game, the idea of two teams from different leagues playing each other was horrifying. It was going to destroy the sanctity of the game! Turns out that a game between two teams from different leagues looks pretty much the same as a game between two teams from the same league. My daughter will surely grow up in a different world than I will.

I had actually been planning this particular day for the last two years. My father drives down to Atlanta every Memorial Day weekend (he attends an event at the University of Tennessee each year and in his words, “I’m in the neighborhood, so I’ll stop by”). The two of us figured that it would be the perfect time to take N to a game. I actually held my breath over the winter when the Braves’ schedule was released. All that planning and they could have easily been in the middle of a 10-game road trip. It was a great relief when they were not only home, but playing a day game.

If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that the day was more than two years in the planning. More like “You’ve been dreaming about this since the line turned blue on the pregnancy test.” She’s right. I bought my daughter a baseball sticker album at Target. I laughed as she too tried to read “Jhoulys” from the sticker. (I don’t know either.) We watch bits of games on MLB.TV together. We play whiffle ball in the front yard, and when she misses a catch, I comfort her with the fact that even the great Andrelton Simmons makes an error now and then. (When BP had our event at Turner Field last year, Simmons made two!)

She was so excited about going to the game in the few days before. I have to say, I was as well. If you’re taking the time to read Baseball Prospectus, it probably means that baseball is something important to you, and something that you either have already passed along or plan to pass along to the next generation. Even if you don’t like baseball, you can perhaps appreciate the story of a tradition being passed down.

***

I booked the tickets in the upper deck, just offset of home plate. I got those because when I was a kid going to games at Cleveland Stadium and then Jacobs Field, we always sat in the upper deck just offset of home plate. Part of it was the fact that those were the cheaper tickets, but I always loved sitting there. You can see the entire field and everything that’s going on from those seats. But then, thinking about it, I wondered if I was transmitting my own baseball neuroses through that. The thing about the upper deck is that the actual players themselves start to look like little smudges of white and grey uniforms. I only ever remember sitting close enough to really see the players sweat when I was a kid. The Indians were playing the Brewers in 1987 (that’s sorta interleague), and Paul Molitor had run a hitting streak to 34 games. We sat about four rows behind the Brewers’ dugout for that game, and I remember actually cheering when Molitor got his hit to extend the streak. He finished with 39.

The problem with the upper deck is that you can lose focus on the fact that those are real human beings playing down there. They can become abstractions, little game pieces from Candy Land. Maybe next time I’ll spring for a couple of seats where she might hear a few words that I’ll probably have to explain to her. (Maybe that one should wait until she’s a littler older.) But the other thing that you can definitely see from the upper deck is the scoreboard. The thing with all the numbers on it. N and P were both fascinated by it. I got to explain what “RHE” spelled, but I did spare them the lesson on why batting average is a bad stat. The way my mind works, I probably would have been looking at the numbers anyway. I had a strange moment where I was having existential anxiety over whether I was indoctrinating my daughter into the sabermetric cult too early, the in utero readings of Moneyball notwithstanding. Then it passed.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: G... (06/03)
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