Father & Son

When I began this blog, a little over a year ago, its stated purpose was to contribute to the growing conversation about America’s Criminal Justice System, and the crucial need to reform it, and that remains its core focus. However, at a time when our country is experiencing major political, economic, and social divisiveness, it entered my mind that a brief pause to reflect on baseball, a subject that historically served well to bring Americans of widely divergent backgrounds joyfully together, would provide a welcome change of pace.

Spring is a time of renewal, a time when Mother Earth, having rested, gifts us with rebirth, with sunshine, and flowering trees and shrubs, and the hopeful smile they engender. And when April rolls into view, and skips into May, Baseball also renews its role in our lives, and with its rich traditions, draws us together instead of apart, as James Earl Jones so simply but eloquently argued in the poignant film Field Of Dreams.

Years ago, sitting in Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, I began to write a poem that spoke to the value of Baseball, and its ability to bind generations together. I entitled it Bottom Of  The Ninth, and I am sharing it with you today in the hope that it will gift you with a smile, and water the seeds of unity within each of us.

 

BOTTOM OF THE NINTH

Went to a ballgame tonight,
took along a buddy, my
son, aged just 7.
As we enter the stadium,
he squeezes his small hand
inside mine,
just as I had inside another’s a
long time ago,
Or was it just yesterday?
The squeeze says, “Gosh, this
place is big, I didn’t know there
were this many people in the
whole world.”
I nod, knowingly,
smiling,
remembering.

We stroll, find our seats,
settle in.
The Star Spangled Banner
sounds, Old Glory waves proudly
in the warm summer night, and
the home team explodes onto the
field, propelled by the cheering
crowd and the umpires’ age-old call
to action: “Play ball!”
Fastball, curve, change-up,
Single, double, a steal,
Cheers, jeers, a sigh,
We’re winning, we’re losing, it’s
all tied up,
Matty’s eyes wide with excitement
as we munch hot dogs, cokes, and
crackerjacks,
just like mine were a
long time ago,
Or was it only yesterday?

“Gee, Dad, this is fun” he
jubilates.
“For sure, son,” I answer,
renewing my smile,
feeling the delight,
remembering,
the innings speeding by till
we reach the seventh and
stretch.

The game’s still even,
tension building—questions
darting into the intoxicating
atmosphere: the difference between
hit and run, run and hit,
slugging percentages and
pitching strategies.
I explain,
teaching, just as I was taught a
long time ago,
Or was it just yesterday?

Then, with single loud crack of a bat,
it’s over:
Bottom of the ninth, a home run!
Thunders of cheers and applause,
and a hug and a kiss from a tired but
exhilarated little boy,
just as I had been a
long time ago,
Or was it only just yesterday?

“Thanks, Dad,” he murmurs faintly
as we shuffle slowly to find our car.
“You’re welcome, son, my pleasure,”
I reply through a fresh smile, then
add silently, an ache crushing my
chest:
And thank you, Grampy, God bless!
I know you were here tonight,
sitting right between us,
I could feel the gentle pat of your
hand,
See your kind loving smile and the
wise eyes,
my heart swelling with satisfaction
from the shared gift of
caring,
sharing,
belonging.
I know, because that’s why
it was so special, so extra
special, I end,
smiling yet again,
this time through my tears,
nodding firmly,
this time with hope,
remembering.

 

 

 

 

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