The Heart of Baseball—For Love of the Game

John watching the games...
John watching the games…

Last week was an exciting one. Despite our recent move to a different county, we kept driving back up to our old county so that my son could finish his baseball season and participate in the playoff games. You see, his team just couldn’t lose. They kept on winning. In several come-from-behind scenarios, the Brewers hung in there and eventually ended up winning the Championship.

We won’t forget it.

However, what we probably won’t forget more than anything is a gentleman named “John” who came and sat through all the games. We called him our lucky charm. At 84 years of age, John drove himself to Kiwanis-Wallas Park, visited the concession stands, and then joined us in the bleachers as we rooted for the Brewers. He became one of us. And an important fact to know is that he was not related to anyone on the team.

It is not often that I am touched beyond words, and I’ve put off writing this post for a particular reason: I don’t think I can do his love of the game justice.

Those of you who are loyal blog readers of mine (thank you!) know that I am a big baseball fan. Not only do my children both play softball and baseball, but I worked in the sport for many years in Baltimore. I’ve been touched by a lot of things over the years, from Cal’s Streak Week, to seeing Joe DiMaggio in person, to being with my colleagues and friends at the Orioles out in the stands in 1997 as we watched our team lose its World Series chances.

But this man John may just become my favorite baseball memory.

Night after night, he came. By himself. He cheered. I listened to him tell stories of his mother (“She spoiled me rotten; I was an only child, you see…”) and of how he would unload the trucks (in Pennsylvania) as a kid, then ride his bike seven miles to the nearest ball field to play for hours with his friends. He lived near Williamsport, PA, ironically the birthplace of Little League Baseball, and described how he played as 12-year-old. “I love watching this age group play,” he said. “I was this age when I started playing ball.” The time was 1939, the year The Wizard of Oz was made.

At the end of the night when the Brewers won and they stormed the field, John stood and clapped and cheered and said, “Yeah, Brewers.” When our team would put men on base, John would yell, “There you go, Brewers! You’ve got ducks on the pond now. Let’s do it, Brewers!”

When he called my son a “scrappy player,” I loved him even more. My son has had to fight hard in this league, as the kids are bigger and stronger and their curve balls more fierce. My son’s adolescent growth spurt has not yet begun.

Nevertheless, I will never, ever forget John. I will never forget how he applauded the kids, and at the parents’ urging, even posed in team pictures at the end of the night with the boys and coaches.

He was our lucky charm, and an enduring memory that my son, daughter, husband and I will not soon forget. And this is what baseball is all about: bringing people together, sharing moments, and reveling in the bliss that all starts with a ball and a bat.


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