Baseball Magic

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Baseball season starts in five days. I’m writing a book on my love for baseball (as a breather from writing the book on grief). This is the second in a series of posts/excerpts between now and Opening Day.

Corin discovered baseball—and his love for the game—when we lived in a barrio in Managua. There weren’t nice parks in our area—Loma Linda near Anexio de Buenos Aires. That’s putting it mildly. We played catch, for many hours, on a corner “lot” that was overgrown with weeds, littered with dog landmines (let the reader understand) and broken glass, and probably scarier things under those weeds.

The entire lot was about sixty or seventy feet square, but Corin was just learning to throw and catch. I stood on one end, near the perimeter wall outside a neighbor’s house,* while Corin stood on the opposite end, which was right next to a street. Fortunately, it wasn’t a busy street.

You might ask, “Why did you have your 10-year-old standing nearest the street?” Between the broken glass, fire ants, thorny weeds, and the serpentina (razorwire) on the house end, I decided it was safer where the cars were (rarely) driving, especially because I had better control with my throws and could minimize how often he had to cross that street.

But before he could make that discovery, he first had to find the glove. Corin used a small, red leather glove, which we bought during our yearly visit to the U.S. When we bought it, he had no discernible interest in baseball. I’ve always struggled to find that line between encouraging our kids to try sports they might enjoy and pushing too hard. I’m certain I’ve made mistakes in both directions.

Corin and I were in a big Dick’s Sporting Goods store—these shopping trips in the U.S. always felt a little overwhelming to us when we were accustomed to very different stores—and I was having Corin try on gloves. At this moment in his life, he was far more interested in Pokemon cards.

So I first bought him a pack with a holo card and he got a great pull, about which he was tremendously excited—that excitement, at least, I could relate to—and I then persuaded him to look at baseball equipment with me. I might have made the former conditional on the latter—I would never put it past me—but I honestly don’t remember now. If you’re a parent who doesn’t use a good, honest bribe with your kids once in a while…I don’t understand you at all.

We were in the baseball aisle, which was about thirty feet long, and Corin wanted to try out the gloves by playing catch. With a baseball. In the store.

Do I need to mention we weren’t alone in the store? Do I need to explain that Corin wasn’t yet accurate with his throws? I’m fairly quick and do have fast hands, but I’m also short (5’8”) and, you know, even then not as young as I once was. Also, Corin had not yet mastered catching a baseball with a glove. Not close.

But magic happened. He tried a couple gloves and missed every throw. I mean every one bounced off the glove he had on. He wasn’t enjoying this. Then he put on this red one—it would not have been my first choice for him—and he caught every throw. Literally every throw. I don’t know how you explain that. Baseball miracle? It felt more comfortable on his hand? Increased confidence brought a better result? Answer to prayer that my kiddo would at least try baseball? Maybe several of the above?

We bought that glove. Last summer, Corin and I went to play baseball together forty or fifty times, usually at his suggestion. We attended about fifteen Wenatchee AppleSox games–shout out to Kelsey Bonilla, our then-housemate and fellow baseball fan–and watched a much larger number of MLB games on TV. It’s funny to wonder if Corin might not have discovered his love for baseball without that little red glove…just as I’ve often wondered if I would have gone a different direction and never fallen in love with this game, had dad not called my attention to that Reggie Jackson at-bat in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.

Baseball magic.

*In developing countries like Nicaragua, every home that can afford it has an exterior wall to keep out would-be thieves. So many people live in poverty that taking things to survive is commonplace. This doesn’t make it nice when it happens to you, but when you see people, especially friends and neighbors, living at subsistence levels and fighting to survive, you understand better why it happens.

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