I stopped blogging a while ago but a couple of former students asked me to start back up. So here’s my first blog since last Fall. A few years ago I blogged for nearly 30 days straight about one subject – why I love Washington, DC. I think I’ll try the same thing – but this time I’ll focus on baseball.
Why I love baseball? Because it’s the best sport for “fathers and sons.” Back in the 70’s, the Washington Senators moved to Texas. That meant there was no professional baseball team in DC, a great sports city, for over 30 years. It wasn’t until the Washington Nationals came into existence in ’05 that the Nation’s Capital once again had a MLB team.
But, in a more personal manner, here’s a story about me and my father. We lived in Japan for most of my youth — and moved to the Washington, DC area when I was 16 years. My father, brother and I were huge sports fans — the Redskins, Bullets, Capitals, Hoyas, Terps, etc. But, there was no baseball team here for us to root for or to attend games in person.
I remember when I was 14 years old, our family was visiting friends in Texas when we attended a Rangers game. In about the 7th inning, when I went to get a “grand slam hot dog,” there a was a foul ball hit into the stands. The ball was headed toward my father and brother. Unfortunately, they didn’t catch the ball and it spun away to another fan.
As a kid, catching a foul ball is a dream.
So, after we moved back to DC, there were no baseball games to attend. And, that dream might not ever come true.
Then, in ’05, the Nats came into existence and played their games at RFK Stadium. In August of that season, my father, brother and I went to a Saturday afternoon game between the Nationals and the Cardinals (my brother’s favorite team).
At that time, my father’s health had started to decline. But, he was still excited to attend the game. In the 3rd inning, although it was a day game, my father nodded off during the game. I said to my brother – let’s try to stay till until at least the 5th inning (since this a wonderful experience to be able to attend a live ball game in DC with our father in DC after not having a team for over 30 years).
The game was played at a brisk pace and my father woke up from his short nap. A couple of innings later, a foul ball was hit back behind home plate into the upper deck area. Our seats were behind home plate in the lower section. As the ball was hit, my brother mentioned we might have a shot at it. But, I didn’t think so it was hit into the upper deck. But, miraculously, just as it had done in Texas way back then, the ball spun out of the deck back into the lower deck — where my father caught the ball against his chest. And he raised his right arm with the ball and couldn’t stop smiling. The fans sitting around us applauded my father.
I thought to myself — wow, this is incredible. We finally have a baseball team in DC; and we get to attend the game with our father. I knew right then and there that this was a lifetime memory being created — one that I’ll always cherish.
Then, a couple of years later, in the Spring ’08, I delivered the eulogy at my father’s memorial service at Ft Myer, VA. As I was writing the speech, I thought of three specific memories that stood out — attending the “Three Tenors” concert with my father (he loved opera music), going to Paris with my father and brother, especially to a great night at a wonderful jazz joint in Saint Germain (he loved jazz music), and then the baseball game.
I had the ball in my suit pocket as I delivered the eulogy.
So, on the saddest and most difficult day of my life, it was these memories that helped keep me strong (along with the great support from family and friends).
This is why I love baseball. It’s about “fathers and sons.”