There are few things I can say that I got from my dad… my anger, my tendency towards addictions, my laugh, the band Aerosmith and a fondness for the Atlanta Braves.
Did my dad like baseball? I guess as much as any man LIKES baseball. Was he a mega fan? Probably not. He wore a Braves hat… And they were owned by Ted Turner so they were always on TBS – so he watched them. Did he ever take me to a game? I don’t think so, maybe I saw him play softball on his Coast Guard league, but I couldn’t tell you. Did he ever see them play? I couldn’t tell you that either. We played catch a few times after my parents got divorced when I would go to visit him. It was always with a softball, which always felt weird to me. I was a preteen boy who had played little league and thought that only girls used softballs.
He’s from Indiana and he served in the Coast Guard. Was he ever stationed in Atlanta or in Georgia? I don’t think so. As an adult, I assume his love of the Braves came from them being good in the 90’s and their TV schedule. They were America’s team… Starting pitchers like Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz… young hitters like Chipper Jones, Javier Lopez, David Justice (who was married to Halle Berry at one point for fuck’s sake)… what wasn’t to love? They were a young team full of superstars and great players who were literally always on TV.
Baseball got away from me as I grew older. I was bad at little league, like really bad. Little league has a minimum amount that each team is required to play every kid. I played the minimum amount every time. I believe it was 2 innings and at least 1 at bat. I quit little league more times than I can remember, but my mom would always force me to go back. I can remember my first hit I ever got in a little league game, it was the first of two in my entire career. A little blooper over the pitcher’s head and into center field. I can remember actually SEEING the bat hit the ball, before this moment I had always turned away as I swung the bat – I was afraid of the ball. But when I watched the bat hit the ball, it all kind of made sense. You swing in to the pitch and keep your eye on the ball – eye on the ball – it’s real, it works. I got one more hit that season and then I was officially done with Little League and baseball.
Before I moved to DC with my now wife, I would come to visit and we would go to Nationals games. The only thing I knew about baseball was the Atlanta Braves. So I wanted to see the Braves. Somehow Chipper Jones was still on the team during this time, quite the accomplishment for such a great player. It’s rare these days that teams are able to keep a player for so long, with salary caps and needing to get younger to compete. Chipper of course lost a step or two, 2012 was his last season in the MLB. I owned a Chipper Jones jersey, I wore it to games… 2012 was also the year I moved to DC. Chipper was going out, and everything I knew about the Braves and about baseball – was gone.
But I learned that I liked baseball, I guess as much as any man LIKES baseball. So I kept going to games, I finally lived in a city that had professional sports teams so I adopted the Washington Nationals as my team. I would still try and see games with the Braves were in town, but it wasn’t as important. There was nothing tying me to the Atlanta Braves, was I a sell out, a fair weather fan? I don’t think so – I only liked the Braves because my dad did and towards the end I only liked Chipper Jones because he was the only player from that time. My dad kind of looks like Chipper Jones too, or maybe I just want him to look like him. I couldn’t tell you.
Last week I was diagnosed with MS. I woke up the week before with pain in my right eye that turned into blurriness that turned into an MRI that turned into a diagnosis of MS.
I called my mom, I called my sister… they called my dad. My dad was adopted as a baby and knows nothing of his birth families’ health history. My mom wanted to know if it was his fault that I had MS. “It runs in families, we don’t have it, you don’t have MS”
My dad called and said he was going to come and visit me after hearing the news. He told me he would let me know when he had a concrete plan for when he would come. The next time I heard from him was him asking for directions to my apartment because he was down the street.
My mom was already in town, she wanted to be with me during this time as well.
It was a cozy little family picture, my wife, our two dogs, my mom and my dad all in my tiny DC studio apartment. The air mattress fit snugly, touching both the tv stand (dresser) and the couch.
We watched Ocean’s Eleven… I’d never seen it before. It was ok. We tried to find other things to watch on Netflix, but couldn’t find something we all agreed on. Finally we decided to just turn on cable and see what was on.
The Braves were in town, the game was on MASN… MASN plays almost all the Nationals’ games. I live in a city where a local team is literally always on TV. A team with great starting pitchers… Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez. A batting order full of young studs… including Bryce Harper, who might just be the best player in the league and definitely is 8 years younger than I am.
Am I a Nationals mega fan? Not at all.
I own a Nationals’ hat, I don’t really wear it.
I still go to games with my wife, friends, and family.
I haven’t thrown a baseball in a decade.
“Let’s go Braves!” my dad said.