Baby wants a base­ball

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

You know it’s spring when the breeze car­ries with it the al­lur­ing aro­mas of fun­nel cake, pop­corn and Ball Park Franks.

Satur­day was a South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs dou­ble­header — our first game of the sea­son at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium. I knew my hus­band and I couldn’t take the baby alone. My dad, a vet­eran sports­writer with two daugh­ters, had to be there to take his grand­son to his very first game. My mom came, too, de­spite her (not ir­ra­tional) fear of foul balls.

It was a mo­ment many years in the mak­ing. De­spite en­cour­age­ment, the Snider sis­ters never showed ath­letic in­ter­est or in­cli­na­tion (though, as a lefty, Katie’s am­bidex­trous pitch­ing abil­ity coulda’ made her a con­tender). Dad hasn’t had any­one in the fam­ily to share in his sports love and knowl­edge . . . so maybe Oliver will be the one.

Walk­ing into the sta­dium, I won­dered how our 1-year-old was go­ing to re­act. His day-to­day ex­is­tence is pretty quiet: bot­tles, veg­gies, hang­ing at day­care, a lit­tle bit of “The Mup­pets” to cap off an evening. Like most ba­bies, I guess, Ol­lie is fas­ci­nated by peo­ple: what they’re do­ing, where they’re go­ing — and, most im­por­tantly, what they’re eat­ing. I fig­ured his at­ten­tion would be all over the place, and I was right.

Now that Oliver is try­ing ta­ble foods (pureed ones, any­way), he’s a big fan of eat­ing. Spencer and I now have to “sneak” snacks . . . I mean, I can’t en­joy my il­licit cook­ies with those sweet, round eyes watch­ing me. I feel ter­ri­bly guilty eat­ing in front of him.

Same with bev­er­ages. Ol­lie has been fas­ci­nated by mugs for months. Given I can barely crack an eye­ball with­out a jolt of caf­feine, I’ve be­come very adept at sip­ping luke­warm cof­fee around a baby. The fun comes when Oliver de­cides he wants some, too — and I have to make some eva­sive ma­neu­vers.

He was no bet­ter at the sta­dium. Food, of course, was ev­ery­where — one of the best parts of the ball­park ex­pe­ri­ence. We had to phys­i­cally re­move Oliver from the chicken ten­der bas­ket; he was ea­gerly reach­ing out a paw for all that crispy good­ness.

He is my son, af­ter all.

Though I grew up in a sports-lov­ing house­hold, the book­ish gene is strong with me; I’ve just never got­ten into foot­ball, bas­ket­ball, golf. Base­ball, how­ever, has a long his­tory in our fam­ily — and even if I don’t al­ways fol­low a team or sea­son, it’s some­thing my sis­ter and I share with our dad.

I think I love go­ing be­cause Dad loves go­ing. De­spite shared genes and many shared in­ter­ests, dads and daugh­ters don’t nec­es­sar­ily have mu­tual hob­bies. Where Mom and I can blow an en­tire day at an out­let mall, Dad isn’t quite as en­thu­si­as­tic. (But al­ways a good sport, I’ll note.)

It’s dif­fer­ent at base­ball games, where the at­mos­phere is en­er­getic and the good vibes in­fec­tious. I love the kids in faded caps, gloved hands out­stretched for foul balls; the ven­dors hawk­ing beer and peanuts; sticky chairs that spring back as you stand to cheer. The seventh-in­ning stretch and cow bells, the na­tional an­them and “Sweet Caro­line.” It all comes to­gether in a per­fect blend that makes even me, a non-be­liever, see the light.

Oliver is typ­i­cally tough to en­ter­tain — un­less you’re a bal­loon. But his eyes were glued to the field on Satur­day, watch­ing play­ers come up to swing and ey­ing the crowd around us. Perched on my dad’s knee, I watched Ol­lie’s dark eyes dart be­tween the pitcher’s mound and home plate. He re­ally seemed to pay at­ten­tion.

To me, base­ball isn’t all about what’s hap­pen­ing on the field (though that’s im­por­tant, too, of course). It’s a feel­ing. A ca­ma­raderie. Af­ter spend­ing all day in an of­fice, it’s a chance to breathe com­mon air, run into old friends, feel like you’re a part of some­thing that doesn’t in­volve your couch or computer.

And for me, it will al­ways be linked to Dad — es­pe­cially when I re­mem­ber the many times we braved rainy weather to watch the Na­tion­als play from the cheap seats, hot dogs in hand. Our plans were of­ten last-minute, de­ter­mined by col­lege sched­ules and work fluc­tu­a­tions and weather — much like now. But we al­ways squeezed in a few games each year, es­pe­cially as the burn­ing-hot sum­mer mel­lowed into fall.

Life is of­ten filled with beau­ti­ful sym­me­try: see­ing the Blue Crabs with Oliver at the start of a beau­ti­ful spring, the start of a fresh sea­son — then re­mem­ber­ing the cool Septem­ber nights we bun­dled up to see the Nats play at the end of theirs.

My baby is still a baby, but he won’t be our baby for long. Next game? We could be chas­ing him through the stands. And pretty soon that lit­tle guy will be reach­ing for my pop­corn.

Bet­ter start buy­ing the ex­tra-large bucket . . . I never have been one to share.

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