Anyone who is enamored with the game that is known as America's Pastime knows the familiar feelings that go along with it: A sort of giddy anticipation at the start of spring training, and the tremendous excitement of the fall playoffs.
When I was about 12-years-old, I emerged a huge baseball fan. Thanks to my older brother's and my grandparents' influence, I was hooked on the sport at a young age - loved to play it, loved to watch it on T.V. Growing up in Ocean County where there was generally a New York team fan-base, I was an avid Yankees fan.
As a kid, I never experienced the joy of attending a Yankees' game, or any other pro game for that matter. I only dreamed of it - like dreaming of winning the lottery. I do recall my grandfather bringing me to an autograph signing at a sporting goods' store where we stood in a very long line to get an autograph of one of my favorite players, Yankees catcher Rick Cerone. I'll never forget how starry-eyed I was as he signed my Yankees poster and bumper sticker.
Despite my failed dream of seeing a game live, my passion for the sport would not falter. As a 12 year-old, I mourned the tragic death of my hero, Yankees catcher Thurman Munson. At 13, I was collecting ice cream-truck-baseball cards that cost 25 cents a pack paid for with my allowance. By 14, I was listening to games on the radio if I couldn't see them on T.V. I also battled, often, with my brother who was a fan of the Yankees' rival Red Sox. As long as I can remember, I read the sports pages regularly to stay on top of the standings and stats.
Twenty-nine years later, I am still a huge baseball fan. Although much to the chagrin of my childhood friends who knew me as a Yankees diehard, I have gradually crossed over to the other side. Geography and my husband would ultimately be responsible for it. It also helped that my husband was the first to make my life-long dream come true by bringing me to my first major league baseball game at Veteran's Stadium when I was in my twenties. Perhaps our mutual love of the sport was part of the reason my husband and I were so compatible. We were always a baseball couple.
Now we are a baseball family.
Just about every night of the week this time of year, you can find the game on our family television. And, as often as we can, we try to score tickets to a game. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to help our kids experience the joy of attending a professional game while they were still young: They have been to see the Phillies play many times; and, when the Surf played in Atlantic City, we attended games often.
When the Phil's were in the World Series in 2008, we were vacationing in Florida. I recall as we walked through Disney proudly displaying our Phillies shirts, we were greeted by many fellow-fans with fist pumps, high fives, and cheers that fostered a sense of camaraderie that my kids had never-before experienced with perfect strangers. It was the sort of unique experience that is often enjoyed with sports.
While my son enjoys the game, as it happens, it is my 13-year-old daughter who is the bigger fan. I admit I get a bit tickled as I observe the similarities: She watches the games with us, reads the sports pages, and follows the standings. She also banters with one of her closest friend who is a Yankees fan. And if bedtime occurs before game-time ends, she's up early watching Comcast Sportsnet for the play-by-play highlights. (Missing though, are the daily neighborhood pick-up games. For some reason, kids just don't seem to do that anymore.)
The moment at which I recognized that she was a diehard like I was at her age came one morning after a big playoff game. My daughter went to bed not knowing the outcome of an exciting game as it had been a school-night. As I was giving her the play-by-play the next morning, she stopped and gave me a look of confusion and disappointment as she informed me that my game summary was impossible as it did not match the Phillies' batting order. She knew the batting order! I even went to the paper to see if she was right, and she was.
There is something a bit surreal about seeing yourself in your child. It can cause excitement if you like what you see; or it can cause some stress if you don't. In this case, the topic was baseball, and, at that moment, I saw myself all those years ago. I liked what I saw. She is a true fan.