Then around eight years old, something changed. The kids had learned the necessary skills. They'd learned when to cover what bag, how to turn a double play, how to steal and slide into second. Games became exciting.
And that year, baseball became a family.
Tonight, that point is especially important to me because tonight, I have an 11-year-old upset because he and his friends are being picked on at school. (It happens at every school, I know. Our school is not a bad one, that's for sure. And it's only a couple kids - the vast majority of kids in class and at school he adores being around, especially his two best buddies.)
I love my babies, but I know they're not perfect. His room is never really clean and he has missing assignments like they are going out of style, but the one thing my kid isn't is mean. In fact, what he's most upset about tonight isn't how he feels about being called names, but how much he dislikes anyone calling his friends names. We talked about true friends vs. just people in class, we talked about how you have to be kind to everyone but you don't have to like everyone.
And then we talked about baseball.
This past weekend marked that glorious return to the field - not just for the players, but for the parents. It was the beginning of four month baseball family reunion, with parents trekking from car to bleachers. Our arms are loaded with bags filled with blankets, sweatshirts, Under Armour, sunglasses, sunscreen, snacks (okay, we forgot those, because we usually depend on Michelle for that!), seeds, gum, extra equipment, Gatorades, extra Gatorades, scorebooks, toys for siblings, and more. We talk like we just saw each other yesterday, and it feels like we're back among family.
Baseball is four months where we get to watch our boys find success and grow from failure; where they pick each other up on the bad plays and celebrate the good ones. Four months where they help take care of their field, talk to each other about the latest Cubs game or video game or snack at the concession stand, and horse around. It doesn't matter if you're tall or short, if you wear glasses, how tan your skin is, if you have orange shoes or like to read Harry Potter. Everyone is just a baseball player, no other tags or names needed. It's four months where I never have to see my kid come home sad because someone has picked on him. He never leaves that field - or another player's home - with anything but smiles and great stories of the shenanigans they had.
And so last night, we talked about baseball. We talked about true friends, we talked about who you surround yourself with and how you react to people. We talked about how even though baseball friends change teams, it's just like baseball season - you might not see someone all the time, but, once you do see them, it's like you saw them yesterday.