Ballgame

The summer sun has set, but my son, 5, is shouting for more practice, more pop flies. I insist on a tennis ball. The darkness might fool him, I say, and I don’t want him to take a baseball in the face. He indulges me, then catches six, eight, ten in a row.

He is happiest when I induce highlight-reel magic, lobbing that faded ball just high enough, just far enough to let him sprint, dive, slam to the ground and thrust his glove into the air — proof of the clean catch, evidence of the miracle. Two hundred feet away, a man on the sidewalk stops, turns away from his lover, and cheers. Unfazed, the kid pops to his feet and fires a strike. I see it just in time to keep it from crashing into my ribs.

I tell him it’s time for bed. He knows. We bump our gloves, man to man, to mark the end.

This week, he learned how to pronounce “testosterone.” That’s what got Melky Cabrera, one of our favorite major league players, suspended for the rest of the season. And today, at the local minor-league ballpark, we watched Koby Clemens have probably his best game of the season. Before I could really think it through, I said, That guy’s dad is Roger Clemens, one of the best … well, he was ….

I worry about my son. I can imagine a thousand ways that baseball will break his heart. But this is his game now, his life, his love. And he is beautiful, diving headlong in the dark. Knowing I can’t see, he assures me: I got it, Dad. I got this….

Photograph by the author. New Hampshire Fisher Cats (in white), 4-2 winners against the Altoona Curve. Koby Clemens, entering the game with a batting average under .200, went 2-2 with a home run and a walk.

About Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson teaches religion, ethics, philosophy, and human rights at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. He is the author of *American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940* (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) and nonfiction essays about Bosnia for the Canadian literary magazine *Numero Cinq*. Born in 1975 in Olean, NY, he earned the Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in American religious history. He writes, teaches, and lectures about religion in America, popular culture, Mormonism, and Bosnia. He lives in Exeter with his partner, Alexis Simpson, and their two children.
This entry was posted in Autobiography / Memoir, Baseball, Ethics, Gender, Health, Parenting, Popular Culture, Raising Boys, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Ballgame

  1. Lois says:

    Hi Tom. I did come check out your blog, as you suggested. (You left a message on my post about my husband’s birthday in Mostar.) I love this post on baseball. One of the things I’m really missing during our year-long travels abroad, is baseball. You really captured a great moment with your son. You’re a terrific writer. Thanks for sharing.

    • Tom Simpson says:

      Lois, thanks (hvala) so much for stopping by! And for venturing outside the forest of Bosnia-themed posts. 🙂 Yes, indeed, I feel for you — my passion for baseball is something that is hard to communicate to Bosnians, but my total lack of skill in soccer seems to come through crystal clear, ha ha. Have such a wonderful trip, and I look forward to seeing more of your posts — you’ve already shown me a great deal that I had not seen before. Ciao!

  2. Nancy Rockwell says:

    So beautifully written, Tom. I can see you both, in my heart’s eye. These are the games that will always be bread for his life, these games he is playing with you – Nancy

  3. Rick Simpson says:

    Will and the pronunciation of “testosterone”! Laughing through my Giant gloom. Reminds me of my dad’s comment in a 1964 Christmas letter after a mysterious infection put him in the hospital for 103 days. Everything has a bright side, he said: “I learned how to spell staphylococcus.” Ah, Melky. Ah, Roger. Just realized that the Giants replaced a hunter of dollars with Hunter Pence. (I can’t be the first to arrive at that one, can I?) Lower your sights, guys, and keep playing. Laugh or cry about baseball? I guess there’s nix to do but–Dugout Interview Cliché Alert!–“turn the page” and dive for that next liner to your left. Uh, well, maybe y’all can do the full extension. Me, I better try to stay on my feet and lurch back to the car. — Great post, Tom.

  4. Tom Simpson says:

    Oh, man, that’s a great story about Grandpa Jerry. And now, of course, I have a big clue about why Mr. Roger was not at the ballpark rooting for his kid. He’s back in the minors himself, at age 50. Let it go, dude. Let. It. Go. 🙂

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