My 10 year old plays Little League baseball so I’ve been spending most weekends sitting on the bleachers, watching him, rooting for his team. Some days the games are fast-paced, lots of hitting and running and base-stealing and others they are the molasses of baseball, the type of endless humdrum that make me want to fast-forward the game.
This season I learned to love baseball, to respect the traditions, to anticipate the way each kid approaches to bat. Some kids hit the home plate with their bat in preparation, other take a few practice swings. My son does something that resembles a swivel with the bat, its tip barely moving, but letting me know that he’s ready.
I’ve cried at baseball this year. I cried when they won, I cried when my son stole a base, I cried when he came back from a game with a black eye because he had collided with the first baseman.
But nothing, nothing gets me as chocked up as when I watch my son put on his catcher’s gear.
I’m not sure I understand it myself.
Partly it’s the fact that a 10 year old boy who will at times still ask me to help him pull up a pair of socks because “they get stuck, Mom!” can handle the catcher’s equipment, snapping the snaps and lowering the Hannibal Lector mask over his face.
Partly it’s that I–I! a woman who loathed the period between classes at college because I had to cross The Green and risk getting hit in the head with a Frisbee, that same I now have a son who will put his body and head in the path of a baseball thrown with great force.
Partly it’s that when I see him squat behind the batter with his right arm held behind his back (Why do you do that, I’d asked. Because I don’t want to get hit by the ball, he told me) I know that all my warnings of danger aside, he respects the game enough to heed its warnings.
Partly it’s that I know how good he is at catching and that I will soon hear the satisfying bam of the ball landing in his mitt.
Yes, I get weepy for all these reasons. But also because I realize that he is no longer my baby. That he is playing in a world with its own rules, taking risks that I would never assume. He loves the game, and as much as I love watching him play, whenever he puts on his catcher’s gear, I know that he is growing up and away. As he should be. They’re happy tears. Mostly.