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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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19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

edwardarthur

My just-seven-year-old daughter last night during the Yankees-Mariners game: "I wish we could have King Felix. (Pause.) But I guess that would either cost a lot of money or some of our best players." I was so proud!

Jun 03, 2014 04:15 AM
rating: 8
 
wockenfuss

The key to sticking it out for the entire game with a kidlet: time-consuming concessions. That, and not hopping them up on sugar early on (cotton candy is for the circus).

Bag of peanuts + frozen lemonade = fifth inning, then "hey, you wanna sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame next inning", after which point you may want to call in the closer (in our case, soft-serve ice cream).

Jun 03, 2014 05:37 AM
rating: 5
 
garciamckinley

Super read.

Jun 03, 2014 06:01 AM
rating: 5
 
randolph3030

Bathroom breaks...That's what's holding me back, I can't believe any good father has ever allowed his daughter to see the inside of a Yankee Stadium men's room.

Jun 03, 2014 06:06 AM
rating: 5
 
caminante1

Don't know about Yankee Stadium but Fenway Park has some family restrooms and I've taken my daughter every year since she was 3.

Jun 03, 2014 14:17 PM
rating: 1
 
gilpdawg

I didn't attend my first game until I was 11, so there was no way no how I was ever going to leave early. I would have murdered my parents. I still remember the game, too.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN198905200.shtml

Jun 03, 2014 06:27 AM
rating: 2
 
GreenvilleGent

Took my 3-year-old daughter (and five-year-old son) to that game as well. Practically had the same seats as you for the Tuesday night game. Made it to the seventh-inning stretch for both games. Great series! Thanks for the article which will immortalize our road trip down to ATL.

Jun 03, 2014 08:01 AM
rating: 1
 
kmostern

My kid's been staying to the end of A's games since she was 5, and at 10 she gets nothing but 100% in math. I believe this is causal. (The fact that I read Baseball Prospectus has nothing to do with it.)

Jun 03, 2014 09:24 AM
rating: 4
 
misterjohnny
(925)

Last season I took my 11 year old to a game that went really late. It was the day before school started, so we left early. That was of course the game that a position player got to pitch. He hasn't let me forget that.

Jun 03, 2014 09:51 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

Aside from extenuating circumstances, I've broken the "never leave early" rule once in my life. August 5, 2001, Seattle at Cleveland. Look that one up.

(I had a plane to catch the next morning to see my then-girlfriend, now-wife for her birthday. I have since forgiven her.)

Jun 03, 2014 10:33 AM
 
mdupske

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN201004170.shtml

Took my 12-year-old daughter to this game (20 innings). Didn't leave until the last out. My wife wondered where we were because it was a 3pm start and we were not home by 7pm. She found out when she turned on Fox to watch COPS and the game is of the week was still on. This game. Fox ended up bumping the entire primetime schedule that night because nobody could score. And after, the game was over she still wanted to run the bases (that day's promotion).

Jun 04, 2014 21:24 PM
rating: 1
 
Dave Brock

Great read, thanks for sharing it with us. As an expectant father, it makes me giddy.

Also, this goes without saying, but I'm sure Daddy was pleased that Atlanta didn't go up 5 and have the audacity to steal third on the Red Sox. Daddy would have some 'splaining to do.

Jun 03, 2014 10:25 AM
rating: 1
 
gregarakaki

Wonderful article. Can't wait for my nephew (2 yo) to get a little older.

Jun 03, 2014 11:07 AM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

Great article! My daughter only recently turned two and, as my wife could tell you, I have been planning her first game since day 1. She won't let me take her until after her 3rd birthday though...

Jun 03, 2014 13:23 PM
rating: 1
 
chapmantime

Love it. My daughter turns three in July and has attended five Reds games: two last year and three this. Thus far she has lasted nine every time, including a Friday night fireworks display. I'm enjoying it now as I expect her to have less patience when she's older. ;)

Jun 03, 2014 18:14 PM
rating: 1
 
oldbopper

Thank you for the best article of all from a continuous supply of fascinating baseball stories of every type. What memories you helped conjure up of the glorious days from the distant past, of that first game at Fenway in 1948 and of three generations sitting in the monster seats. Of joyous thoughts of future trips to Fenway Park or New Britain Stadium or ??????????? with those you love and who share your love of the game.

Jun 03, 2014 20:27 PM
rating: 0
 
wthomson

This story brought up one of my favorite memories if my late father. He frequently brought up his first trip to Wrigley, when he described entering the ramp leading to the field with the green grass and his first major leaguer, Casey Stengel.

Jun 04, 2014 03:04 AM
rating: 0
 
jonjacoby

Twin boys 2 1/2. Planning on taking them to Citi Field on a Sunday. Will get there late stay until the end and then they can run the bases. Wife's idea to take them I was willing to wait until they are older.
It's a mixed marriage:I'm a born and raised Yankees fan (suffered through the Steinbrenner 80s) She is from Jersey but from Boston-stock so she roots for the Sawx. We decided to raise the boys Mets fans. (It's like a Jew and a Catholic raising their kids Lutheran)


Great piece of writing Russell.

Jun 04, 2014 08:31 AM
rating: 3
 
jfranco77

Love, love, love this article.

My daughter is 4 and has been to a handful of games. We usually sit where you sat - those are my favorite seats too - but for my birthday we got seats close to home plate. (How close? Jim Leyland was in the row behind us)

Maybe a coincidence but she made it through 7 innings without any additional stimulation (snacks, walking around the park, etc).

Jun 04, 2014 09:46 AM
rating: 0
 
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