I thought I was done with baseball. The bug I got from my dad as a kid, first playing Little League in New Hampshire, then following the Red Sox over the years, finally withered on the vine of hectic adult life.
The Sox’ big win in 2004 culminated decades of watching every game on the radio, accompanied by my high priests, Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano. Then my wife and I started our family in 2011, and after becoming a father of three boys, it was impossible to move on. Baseball took time; I had none.
Cut to summer of ’22. One of our sons, Boaz, is now 9 years old. He decided to join our city league last year and this summer became a last-minute addition to Wayland’s “select” team, playing three tournament games a week against neighboring towns.
Nine-year-olds have a hard time catching balls and just as hard to throw them. I thought the games would be boring. How wrong I was. A seemingly innocuous Little League game can be a revelation, an unpredictable short story that’s at once engrossing, free, and shocking.
Games are played at the Cassidy Baseball Field complex in Medway, mostly in the evenings. This diamond collection is a throwback. Stepping out of your car, you might feel like you’re in a trance—that you’ve stepped into 1960. A snack bar glows fluorescently in the center, staffed by disgruntled high schoolers selling hot dogs and ice cream. Families gather around the perimeter of three fields. Children are silent and loud: they shout, sing, sing from the pits. A sweet smell permeates the surrounding oaks. The sun sets. The upper banks of light flicker upward, heightening the drama.
I did not expect to meet my father here. He died in 2015, 20 days after my youngest was born. But there he is, the nervous, punishing referee keeping the count, presiding like a patriarch over the pack of players and coaches. And there he is once again, one of our coaches standing as the third base coach, whispering stern advice into the ear of a guy who has very little idea when to field, run, steal, slide.
And there he is again, I’m somewhat convinced, in the person of my son’s teammate, a hard-nosed, freckled kid who whips and occasionally gets called out of fake situations, giving quick and smart understanding to the opponent. line up The essence of each of these children appears precisely, deeply, within the clarifying bell that is a baseball diamond. Talent and foibles are held in perfect suspension, then thrown off balance as they face a single pitcher or knock down a hard grounder, their coaches — all fathers, all exes — watching intently, vicariously.
Finally, I spotted my father among the parents watching behind home plate, caught up in the high stakes of a simple pitch count. And the way he used to watch my games not from the stands, where people are forced to hang out, but behind the cage right where I am now.
Boaz is on deck. It swings in the air, aligning each cut with the balls in the actual dough. He is persistent in the way I remember myself. My blood starts to move as he goes to the plate. In short, it catches our eye. He nods, seriously.
In this place, my mobile, my connection, becomes inert – perhaps one reason I’ve found such lasting pleasure in these games. Every bit of attention is focused on what unfolds on the field along with the fascinating human circus that surrounds it.
Boaz gets his sweet, hard swing. Determined and looking, really looking, I feel my heart climb into my mouth. Suddenly my father is there. In a way I haven’t experienced it since he left my sight seven years ago. This time not next to me, but inside.
Ted Weesner is a writer at Wayland. Send feedback to [email protected]. Tell your story. Email your 650-word essay on a relationship to [email protected]. Please note: We do not respond to submissions that we will not follow up on.