I’m not much of a sports fan, but the Philadelphia Phillies have always held a special place in my heart. I’d just moved to Pennsylvania in 1980, the summer before my senior year of high school. Of course, I didn’t know anyone in this new state, so I watched a lot of TV.
The championship team from my new hometown had made it to the World Series and it was pretty exciting stuff. This one event was able to bring an entire city together. For once, things like Reaganomics and record unemployment were forgotten as the region came together for America’s favorite pastime: baseball.
I admit that I hadn’t followed the play-offs too well this year, but once the Phillies became the 2008 National League champs, and a trip to the World Series was in their future, all of those memories of my first summer in Philadelphia flooded back. I wanted to feel the excitement again of a World Series win. I wanted some good news in the midst of so much bad.
Tonight, as the Phillies prepared to finish the remaining innings of rained-out World Series Game #5 against the Tampa Rays, I curled up to watch it with my 8-year-old son Evan. Call me a bad mother, but none of my boys were ever into sports. I signed my first son up for t-ball. Even though he could hit a mean fly ball, he used to get heat sick at every game and refused to play any more. My second son (how do I say this nicely?) is probably the clumsiest human being on the planet, so sports were never an enjoyable experience for him. That left Evan, my youngest. Unfortunately, by the time he came along, we’d already been there, done that, with the other two. With miserable results. Why even try with this one? Evan didn’t ask, and we didn’t suggest that he participate in any sports.
As we’re watching the game, it became painfully aware to me that Evan had no idea what you’re supposed to do in a baseball game:
“Why are they changing guys?”
“Because that guy struck out.”
“Struck what? I didn’t see him hit anything.”
“He sorta swung. That’s called a strike. You get three of those and you’re out.”
“Just out – you’re not allowed to bat any more. They let someone else try.”
“Oh. Hey! That guy just tapped the ball! And he’s running!”
“Yes, that’s called a bunt.”
“No, silly, a bunt. Bu-NT. It’s when they hit the ball lightly and it doesn’t go very far.”
“Look, Evan – he’s trying to steal a base!”
“He’s stealing a base?”
“Yea, he’s trying to sneak to second base before the pitcher sees him and tags him out.”
“Isn’t that illegal to steal a base?”
“No, but you have to be really quick. Oh look! He made it! He stole second base!”
“Do they make him put it back afterwards?”
“He didn’t really steal the base. He just snuck over to second base before anyone noticed him. He doesn’t have anything he needs to put back.”
“Oh. Why are they wearing those helmets with only one ear covered?”
“That’s so the ball doesn’t hit them in the ear. The other one is uncovered since it’s away from the ball that’s being pitched and so he can hear.”
“Cool! What are those numbers at the top?”
“The first one is how many balls they have. If they get 4, they can walk.”
“Walk where? They’re actually allowed to leave in the middle of a game?”
“No, it means they can walk to first base.”
“Just like that? No one gets them out?”
“Just like that.”
“Mom! Did you see that guy slide in?” Then Evan got up and proceeded to demonstrate how he slid in, in case I missed it. “Why do they slide like that?”
“They slide so that a part of their body can get to the base first and be safe. If they slide, then their toe might be able to get on the base before they’re tagged out with the ball.”
“I want to sliiiiiide.” And he does. All around the living room for the next 15 minutes.
“OK, enough sliding. How about we watch the game?”
The camera pans to the coaches and team members in the dugout as they nervously watch the players on the field.
“Why is everyone chewing?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they’re nervous.”
“They must be hungry. Ewwww! That guy just spit something out!”
“It’s probably tobacco.”
“They chew cigarettes?”
“No! Chewing tobacco.”
“Gross! It looks like he’s spitting out teeth or something.”
“It’s probably sunflower seeds.”
“See? I told you he was hungry.”
Finally, Phillies pitcher Brad Lidge was up. He’s had a perfect season and it’s the ninth inning. On his final pitch, he struck out the Tampa Rays’ batter and it was all over. The Philadelphia Phillies had won the World Series 4 to 3!
“Evan, they won!”
“They won! They did it! They haven’t won since 1980 and now they’ve won!”
Evan jumped in my arms and gave me the biggest hug ever. We high-fived. We low-fived. We danced around. We watched the team dog pile onto one another on the field as a dual camera shot showed the crowds of people in Philadelphia pouring out into the streets in celebration. Evan smiled a big, bright smile that lit up his whole face.
“I love the Phillies, Mom!”
“Me too, sweetheart.” I hugged him again just because I could.
I loved spending this night with my son, teaching him about baseball, and sharing the excitement of watching a hometown team win the World Series for only the second time in 126 years. I know that he will remember this night for the rest of his life; the night that my son officially became a baseball fan and had a chance to witness something really big.