Pretty colors are everywhere – Mother Nature, she still cares
Today was Opening Day. To the anti-American Neanderthals out there, that means it was the first game of the year for my baseball team of choice – the Texas Rangers.
I enjoyed the day by doing what I guess is a modern version of tailgating: I hung around with friends in a parking lot adjacent to the ballpark (which those in the know call The Temple) watching the game on a TV (or listening to the radio broadcast when the satellite signal decided to take a dump on tradition) and drinking a few Lone Star beers.
I’ve been invited to this Opening Day party several times, but this is the first year I actually attended. And the Rangers won – while only scratching out one hit all day. (Fun fact: they lost last year’s opener while also scratching out only one hit all day.)
So the 2016 baseball season already has a different feel for me. I did something different and my team won. But that isn’t the biggest change for me this year.
This will be my first baseball season without my mom.
Damn, this is hard to write. You don’t see all the pauses I’ve been taking to collect my thoughts in order to try to make sure I eloquently express how difficult it is for me to go through a baseball season without mom.
I come from a baseball family. And by that I don’t mean we were like the Alous, the Bells, or even the Boones. I mean only that I come from a family that loves baseball. As far as I know, I’m the only one that even played at the high school varsity level.
And guess who kept score at all those high school games I played in? Guess who knew that 5 was third base, 1 was pitcher, and 9 was right field?
Yeah, it was mom. She made every single one of my games, even while working three jobs.
So to kick off this new baseball season, I am going to list my top three memories that combine mom and baseball. And if this entry gets long? Even better, because she deserves it.
#3: The Suite. I worked in the grocery business for 10 years, and during that time I was afforded all sorts of offers (before they were not only frowned upon, but downright outlawed by my bosses) from vendors to attend games in their company suite.
Imagine my pride when I was able to take my mom to a Rangers game that would be viewed from the comfort of the Miller Lite suite. I thought she’d love it, even if she was not a beer drinker, because not only was the beer free in the suite, but food was available and plentiful.
And here is when mom was mom. Because she went straight to the bleacher seats in front of the suite (no interest in the couches in the suite that had great views of the game on wall-mounted TVs) and, instead of getting free hot dogs or burgers or nachos, she proceeded to pull out a giant bag of peanuts that she has smuggled into the park in her purse.
When I tried to point out that there was free food available, she just laughed and said she liked her peanuts.
By the way, all the Miller guys were super respectful toward her that night. She was probably the opposite of their usual female suite guest, but mom won them all over.
#2: Mick the Quick. I’m not sure exactly when this happened (I’m going to guess 1980), but I do know I was in elementary school because my friend Jon was with me. Mom took the two of us to a game and we sat in the right field bleachers of Arlington Stadium. And we got to the game really early.
Back then, a crowd of 10,000 was an anomaly. So we had a ton of room to roam, Jon and I, while mom just sat in her seat next to the aisle. (“Seat” is a little misleading. The outfield had nothing but metal benches to sit on, kind of like what you would expect at a high school football game.)
Jon and I – though probably mainly him, because I was a shy kid – kept yelling at players warming up in the outfield to throw us a ball. And we were met with a big dose of “meh”. Those players had no use for obnoxious kids like us.
But then Mickey Rivers spotted my mom and threw her a ball. It bounced right next to her aisle seat and she deftly picked it up and plopped it in her purse in one poetic motion.
She gloated about that all night to Jon and I. And rightfully so.
#1: The Chimney. (Deep breaths, John, because this is the tough one.)
Before Fox Sports Southwest, or even ESPN, if you wanted to catch what was happening with the Rangers you had to listen to the games on WBAP 820. And the house we lived in from my 3rd grade year until graduating from high school had a chimney on the back side of the house.
Many a spring and summer night was spent in the backyard with my mom and I listening to the Rangers game on a weak transistor radio as I mimicked pitchers while throwing a tennis ball at the chimney. I would field every ricochet off the chimney as if it was a hard hit grounder and then fire the ball to first base (which was, of course, the chimney) for the out.
Mom would sit at the picnic table while I acted out my baseball fantasy, with the dulcet tones of the late Mark Holtz and (the now Hall of Famer) Eric Nadel telling us what what was happening in Arlington or elsewhere with our favorite team.
Just a mom and her son sharing a common love of baseball;
Mom passed away on September 30, 2015.
She missed the Rangers winning the first two games of their ALDS series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
She also missed the Elvis Andrus errors in game 5, as well as the f*cking Bautista bat flip in the same game that ended the season for our team.
But I like to think she was there today as our team scraped out a very improbable win.
It was only 1 of 162, mom, but I like to think you’ll be there with me for the remaining 161. We can do this. I love you.
It’s Spring again, I can hear the birds sing again
See the flowers start to bud, see young people fall in love
– “Spring Again”, Lou Rawls