Growing up in a house with a little sister, a stay-at-home, bridge-playing, sewing-club mom and a working dad whose only athletic interest was watching the occasional college football game, I learned only the sports in which our family participated: hide-and-go-seek, climbing on a swing set and pancake flipping. Sports were for boys, and until I was in college I was more interested in books than boys.
So when I first fell in love with baseball, it was for all the wrong reasons. We started flirting, baseball and I, the night Bill Buckner let the ball slip through his legs in game six of the 1986 World Series. The attraction had nothing to do with the actual game. That night I discovered I liked the kind of boys who liked baseball. The attraction grew stronger when Bull Durham hit the theaters, followed soon after by Field of Dreams, because, let’s be real here, the young Kevin Costner was hot. I was so inspired that I even went to some actual baseball games, minor and major league both, and while those events were still more directed toward chasing a boy than chasing a sport, I did learn the basics of the game and actually enjoyed it.
!t was a purely superficial affair, though. Sure, I could identify Cal Ripken on sight and knew what an RBI was, but I had to steer clear of ever getting deep enough in conversation to need real knowledge or understanding. I was the girl who had as much fun on a baseball game date as at a wine tasting, but I was just playing around. After a few years together we took some time off, baseball and I, which was easy since there wasn’t much to leave behind.
Then I birthed a boy, one born with baseball in his heart. “Ball” was one of the first five words in his vocabulary, and from the time he was two he could hit one pitched to him. He joined his first team at four and has played every year since. Since my skin-deep affair with baseball didn’t provide me the skills to coach third base or manage the batting order like the cool moms, I decided to dust off my abandoned camera and appoint myself team photog.
A portrait shooter is not a natural fit for sports assignments, but big plays in the little league don’t happen all that often, leaving plenty of non-action frames for the taking. More than 3,000 baseball shots, in fact, have come home with me over the last eight years. Combined they tell an entirely different love story between the two of us, baseball and me.
My son couldn’t tell you the difference between the National League and the American League, much less who won the 1963 World Series or why the leagues were divided up in 1994 or any other factoid that baseball junkie coaches have thrown his way for years now. I don’t think he could even tell you what the Green Monster is, and shame on me for that, Boston girl that I once was. He couldn’t tell you because he doesn’t care. He just loves to play baseball. He loves the crack of the bat, the thrill of stealing a base, the way the ball feels when it lands in his glove, the mastery of the third strike rule and the high fives at the end of a game.
He loves baseball for all the right reasons, and now so do I.