"Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today."
Chorus from John Fogerty's "Centerfield"
My 8-year-old nephew (and godson) Ian, playing first base for his Little League team, the Reds. Naturally, he is a Cincinnati Reds fan (he lives along the Ohio River with my sister and her husband).
When I am on vacation over the Fourth of July weekend, my family and I will be attending a Reds game in Cincinnati. It will be Ian's first pro ballgame--always a milestone for a young boy. I still vividly recall my first game--also when I was 8 years old. Reds vs. Mets, 1973 National League Championship Series. Tom Seaver pitching for the Mets, ahead 1-0 going into the 8th. Then Cincinnati's Pete Rose hit a solo homer in the 8th to tie it, and Johnny Bench hit a walk-off home run in the 9th to win it 2-1.
As an aside, when I related this a while back to Br. Mauritius, he said politely, "I'm sure it was exciting, but I have no idea what any of that means." Baseball does not register in Switzerland. Only soccer.
Anyway, on that October evening in 1973, my father had to put me on his shoulders at the end to see, and I remember waving my new Reds cap and cheering along with thousands of other fans so loud I became hoarse. Although the Reds ended up losing the series, that moment was etched into my memory, especially as the Reds went on to win the World Series in 1975 and 1976.
I can only hope Ian's first ballgame will elicit such fond memories when he is older.
When I was a kid, I loved playing first base as well, and my favorite player was Tony Perez, who played first base for the Reds. These days of course, the Reds also have a pretty good first baseman--Joey Votto, who was the National League Player of the Year last year.
Perhaps one day several decades from now, some young boys will pretend to be All-Star first baseman Ian Snodgrass!
"[My Catholic faith and baseball] have each taught me lessons about love, loss, and life. Each has its own rewards, its version of universal truth. Each reveals a wondrous glimpse of what it is to be human. I'm no theologian, and I was never very good with a curve ball, but I marvel at the symbiosis, the intimate connection between that which is heaven sent... and the game which is heaven on earth."
-- Gary Graf, And God Said, "PLAY BALL!"