Baseball Springs Eternal

at 12:35 AM

It's baseball season again, a time when the dawning of spring stirs something in my family.

I played baseball as a kid, and my two sons loved it, too. My wife cheered and I coached - that was our family ritual, our spring, our summer.

But when they entered high school, both my boys quit baseball. It wasn't burn-out, exactly, but the fact that other sports -- rugby, surfing, mountain biking -- were a lot more fun.

What wasn't fun was losing that connection with my boys; the hours spent together trying to master the game.

I missed it more than they did. I was lost without a giant equipment bag to haul around. So I joined the Men's Senior Baseball League.

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This is the real stuff: hardball, played on college fields, even full-on "costumes," as my wife calls our uniforms.

Except it's for ancients like me.

Our player-manager has but one functioning eye. Mike, our beautifully athletic centerfielder, has an artificial hip. Ronnie, our leftfielder, has two artificial hips. It's a great time, but it feels strange to be the only one in the family still playing baseball.

Now, it's my sons who are coaching me. Griff and I play catch to bring my arm back to life every spring. Last month, I brought our gloves on a road trip to visit Will at college.

The gloves almost didn't get out of the trunk. But on the last day of our vacation, as we were leaving his freshman dorm room and saying goodbye, Will turned to me and said, "I miss baseball. I wish I had my glove down here."

"I have your glove, Sweetie, it's in the car," I said.

Beaming, he put on the old glove, marveling at how small it felt.  "Thanks, Dad.  I really missed this," he said.  "It's...like...a part of me."

We played catch for just a minute, and then I had to wave goodbye and head home, with a lump in my throat.

I'm glad I'm still playing baseball. But I'm even gladder to know that Will gets it.  Years from now, when spring rolls around and I'm too old to play, it will be Will who will haul out the equipment bag, and teach his own kids how to play.

With a Perspective, I'm Gordon Wright.

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Gordon Wright is a publicist and freelance writer. He lives in Marin.

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