The problem with people that love baseball is that they often want to tell you stories of how this simple game has touched them at the deepest level. If you are tired of those sappy stories, this would be a good time to stop reading.
For me, baseball became “my thing” very early in my childhood. It could have been fishing or hunting or water polo or running. But it wasn’t. It was baseball.
I grew up in a small town that was steeped in baseball traditions. Sundays in the summer always started with Mass, followed by a chicken dinner, and then ended with the ballgame; the religious fervor building throughout the day.
As much as than anything baseball became a way to connect with my father. Baseball created a language for him that was otherwise inaccessible.
My son and future daughter-in-law have been telling me about a book called The 5 Love Languages. The book describes the five ways that people typically express their love, (gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch) and helps people identity the languages that work for them, and their loved ones.
Like a lot of men of his generation, my father had limited range in each of these five languages. I think that, without knowing it, he invented his own sixth language; baseball. He was a quiet Bohemian man and expressing love in the modern way was not easy. But when I sat next to him at the ballgame or I listened to him talk about watching some of the great Milroy teams of the past, I felt a certain magic; a connection and, yes, a sense of love.
Flash forward several decades: I have now raised three children into their twenties and thirties. I hope, (I pray) that I have been fairly fluent in showing them love in the more traditional five ways. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist the urge to introduce them to the Sixth Love Language as well; we spent a lot of time at the ball park. I believe it has led to some very special memories and some deep connections. The ballpark feels like a special place.
Four months ago, I became a Grandpa to an amazing little girl name Evie. The thrill of being a grandparent has made me want to invent an additional ten love languages; the desire to share joy with her is irresistible. So, while I have become adept at these old and new ways of showing love, I can’t help but revert back to my Dad’s sixth love language; the ballpark.
We have already been to three ballgames with Evie during her first four months. (A little overkill maybe, but our love has no real bounds.) Last Friday was one of those special moments that I think must have my dad chuckling up in heaven.
My son-in-law Scott (Evie’s father) won a drawing that allowed him to bring four people to Target Field to watch the Twins take batting practice before the game. So, he took Maria (his wife) along with my wife Marlys and me, and a fifth intruder named Evie, to enjoy this moment. It was a perfect Minnesota day as we stood behind the batting cage and watched our local heroes wander in our midst, hitting balls and warming up.
At one point, we caught the eye of Miguel Sano, the Twins all-star slugger from the Dominican Republic. His eyes seemed to light up when he saw Evie. He came over to greet us and even agreed to hold Evie for a picture. It was one of those amazing moments, as we all stood smiling and laughing. The rest of the day was spent sharing the sunshine with Evie, eating at the ballpark, watching the Twins come back from a six-run deficit, and trying to wipe the smile off my face.
Yes, great moments and loving events can happen anywhere. Somehow, for me, many of them just seem to happen at the ballpark.