Friday, June 8, 2007

All Aboard

Tonight is kid's baseball night at the major league ballpark. Most of our team is going, and we'll soon be boarding the bus for the drive into the big city. The teams get to parade around the field before the game starts. It's kind of a neat deal. A friend of mine takes the same bus and we like to sing the greatest hits from "West Side Story" and "Fiddler on the Roof" during the ride. Our wives sit far away from us, our children even further.

Last year my youngest was picked to stand next to a player during the National Anthem. Along with seventeen other kids, two for every position, he and I were ushered into the area behind home plate to watch warm ups. Everyone had brought a ball and a marker, of course, but the team rep asked us not to request autographs from the players. Too disruptive as the game's just starting. Makes sense I guess.

As we were waiting, though, one of the announcers came down to do an interview. He used to play for the team and my son's a big fan. I edged over and asked him if he'd mind autographing a ball. He obliged and I walked back to the boy and showed him the signature, addressed to him by name.

"You're the best dad ever."

Yes I am.

The team rep came over and brought him over to home plate, as he'd been assigned to catcher. The umpires shook his hand, joked with him a little, and pointed it out when he appeared on the Jumbotron. The catcher came out then and shook his hand too and my son almost fainted, talking to not only a big leaguer, but one of the great ones. The anthem played, the umpire yelled, “Play ball,” and we joined the rest of the team in the stands, everyone acting properly impressed with the autographed ball.

One other thing about my youngest, he likes hot dogs, and he especially likes hot dogs at the ballgame. I bought him one. I bought him another. I bought him a third. And that was enough. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not made of money and these damn things cost a fortune. The owner's got to pay for those million-dollar salaries somehow.

Immediately he starts sulking. "I never get anything."

"What? You just got to meet your hero and I got you an autographed ball! Plus three hot dogs! What the hell are you talking about?"

"Besides that," he said.

The other dads start laughing as I get up. I don't usually drink at games but I don't usually have to deal with this level of madness. I come back with a beer and he starts in again.

"See, you get beer, but I don't get anything."

"I need the beer."

"No you don't. You just want it. Like I want a hot dog."

"Trust me, I need it."

"Oh, dad needs his beer. He gets everything."

"That's it, give me the ball," I demand.

"Why?"

"Because I'm going to give it to a nice kid."

"No!" he shrieks.

"Then shut up and watch the game."

The boy gets up and wanders back a few rows to sit with some other friends where he blessedly remains for the next hour and a half. The game goes into extra innings and finally, close to midnight, we get back on the bus for the ride home. About halfway home he leans against me and starts to fall asleep, clutching his autographed ball. I look out the window and hope that his memory of the night will be like mine, softened into a story that I'll think about when my son takes the ball down from the bookshelf to show to his friends.

4 comments:

Jennifer said...

Have fun!

This... "A friend of mine takes the same bus and we like to sing the greatest hits from "West Side Story" and "Fiddler on the Roof" during the ride." reminded me of Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" when he killed the sing-along on the bus singing "Three Coins in a Fountain"! I believe John Candy saved him with a rousing rendition of "The Flintstones"!

Enjoy your trip.

Righteous Bubba said...

I was kind of thinking there was going to be a hot-dog-vomit ending, so I'm disappointed. You really need to invest more money in emetics.

billy pilgrim said...

Snag's got a heart of mush.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

It's stories like this and telling the kid to shut up that makes Katie hate you and Leena just plain scared.

:)