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Summerland

July 7, 2011

Here’s something you may not know about me: I am seriously enamored with the romance of baseball. I am not a sports fan. If I’m sitting at a baseball game appearing to watch the field and you come up to me and ask me what the score is, I will not know. There’s a good chance I won’t even know the names of the teams playing, even if my kid is on one of them. But I love sitting there on a summer day. I love the sound of the ball hitting the bat. I love the sound the audience makes when they hear the umpire’s call. I love the clouds of dust the kids kick up as the slide into home plate.

But I don’t think there’s anyone who loves baseball more than AJ, at least not at this very moment. AJ’s always liked baseball a lot, but this year he is a boy obsessed. He reads the New York Times sports section every morning. This works out well, because Mr. Spy always starts with the front page and I always start with the Arts. One section for each of us. It is the perfect arrangement. He watches every White Sox game he can and follows the box scores of the ones he doesn’t see. He plays catch every morning with his dad in the yard. Sometimes they drive down to a nearby school and take batting practice in the cages.

AJ has a massive collection of baseball cards. He plays elaborate games with them, drafting teams from his piles. I find them laid out in diamonds all over the house. I find them under his pillow. He brings them down to breakfast. He reads books about baseball all the time, both fiction and non.

AJ’s always been pretty good at baseball. He’s a good natural athlete. Sports come easily to him, a trait he most certainly gets from his father and not from me. But this year, it all came together for him. He was the kid who pitches shutouts, the one who hits home runs when the bases are loaded, the one who catches that distant fly ball and makes single-handed double plays. He was the best kid on his team this year and everyone but AJ seemed to know it. For the first time, AJ made the All-Star team, which means his parents fork over a lot of money and AJ gets to play another month of baseball, three tournaments.

AJ’s been practicing for a couple of weeks with his new team. He only knew two kids on it when he started, but he makes friends easily, especially with other sports-minded kids. He’s clearly having a great deal of fun. He loves being on a team with other kids who really know how to play. Their first tournament started tonight, although their team doesn’t play until tomorrow. Their coach invited the team to go watch the other teams play in the first round of the tournament this evening. We dropped AJ off at the ball fields at 6:00. It was a perfect summer night, just the right amount of heat to be cool in the shadows. The sun was shining. The park was filled with parents and kids and ballplayers. It was a happy place to be. Mr. Spy and I walked down the street to have a beer while AJ hung out with his team. When we walked back a half an hour later, AJ and some of his teammates were engrossed in a game of running bases. As we picked him up to take him home, his coach yelled out jokingly, “Go straight to sleep!” (it was still light out) and one of the kids he was playing with ran over and tagged him. “Yer out!” he said, and socked him in the arm. They both grinned. “See ya tomorrow.”

Back at home, AJ’s All-Star uniform was still lying on his floor, carefully laid out with all of its many components — jersey (back side up to show his number and name), pants (striped and belted like a real ball player’s), socks — right where he’d put it yesterday after he picked it up at the end of practice. The only thing missing is his cap, which he has not taken off his head, save to shower and sleep. He added his cap back to the uniform tableau before crawling into bed, and I read him the latest installment of Michael Chabon’s Summerland, about a kid who is terrible at baseball but, with some unexpected intervention, becomes great. As I turned out the light he said, “The bad thing about late games” (tomorrow’s game is not until 6) “is that you have to wait so long for them to get here.” I kissed him on the forehead. “But the good thing is that you won’t have to wait so long after your first game before your second one.” He thought about that for a minute and said, “I’m so excited about tomorrow!” It is very uncharacteristic of AJ these days to talk about how he feels about anything, especially when it’s something good, as if he’s afraid to reveal too much.

“I’m glad.”

“I’ve never played on a team that’s good before.”

“I’m really glad you’re having fun.”

“Are you coming to my game, Mom?”

“I wouldn’t miss it.” He’s going to have quite a cheering section tomorrow. An uncle, an aunt and a cousin are all coming. It’s supposed to be another perfect evening. If truth be told, I’m kind of excited myself.

—–

In other AJ news, I have to tell you about his unintentional science experiment today. This morning I was cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast while AJ was practicing his electric guitar in his room when I heard him calling me: “Mom, mom! Come quick!”

I walked into his room and he had his guitar around his neck and was holding his digital camera in his hand. “Listen to this.”

He held the camera a couple of inches above the guitar strings and turned on the power. The mechanical sound of the camera opening was suddenly broadcast through the amp.

“Wow, that’s really cool!”

“Why is it doing that? Are the strings picking up the vibrations?”

“I don’t know. I think it might just be electrical interference.”

“What about this?” With the camera still on, he waved it above the strings. Although he was not touching the strings, the sound of plucked strings was now clearly broadcasting through the amp.

“Wow. That’s really weird.”

“Is it radio waves that are plucking the strings?”

“I don’t know. This is beyond my electrical knowledge. Maybe you should investigate it for a science fair project.”

I went back to my chores, but AJ sat with his guitar and camera for a while yonder, experimenting and puzzling things out. No conclusions were reached. I think we may need to call in an expert. But even without a solution, it was a pretty productive way to start the day.

Anyone out there have any theories? Or any suggestions on where we can look for answers in sources that can be understood by a 10 year old and someone whose last science class was when dinosaurs roamed the earth?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2011 11:32 pm

    The uniform was the best part of Little League. The team I was on for the several years of my unstellar baseball career was Donellan Fitzgerald Franklin Funeral Homes, which perversely was a bright yellow color. I took the hint after a while.

  2. freshhell permalink
    July 8, 2011 7:41 am

    My dad is an armchair baseball enthusiast and he and my stepmother attend games pretty often. I used to go – it’s really the only spectator sport I like – to games when we lived a few blocks from the diamond, back when it was the Richmond Braves. Red enjoys watching kids play at the field behind the library in the summer. Whenever there’s a game – practice, mostly, I think – we have to stop what we’re doing and watch it. I’m not sure what she finds so fascinating about it but baseball does have a particular allure that other sports don’t have. Is it the pace? I don’t know.

    Jeanne sent Dusty a copy of Summerland recently and we’re going to read it together soon. She has no interest in baseball but I think she’ll like the story anyway.

  3. July 8, 2011 7:46 am

    Summerland is not just about baseball. In fact, I suspect that Dusty would come up with a completely different description of the book. But that is the way we read it in this baseball-crazy house.

  4. July 8, 2011 8:05 am

    Hugh, I was talking to my brother a week or two ago about the demise (at least in this area) of the teams named for the local businesses who sponsor them. I remembered my brother having worn the uniform of a local heating oil company. He was telling me that when he was older and played for the VFW team, they used to walk over to the VFW hall after games (the fields were next to the hall) for free soda in the company of the old men who’d been sitting at the bar drinking all afternoon. It’s no doubt due to my sense of baseball as nostalgia that I feel we’ve lost something, the connection to the local community, in naming teams after the major leagues. But there’s no question that the kids love putting on the major league caps. All-Stars is different, though. Because they represent the town, they have uniforms with the town name and its own logo. I think this is part of what AJ likes about it. It’s something more than dressing up like a big leaguer.

  5. July 8, 2011 8:21 am

    No ideas on your science issue, but I have to agree with you on baseball. I’ve never admitted it to anyone, but I’m the same way. I love to be there, but I don’t pay much attention to the game. I love to find baseball on the radio- you can just hear the static sound of the crowd and know you’ve got a game. If I’m really going to watch and pay attention to a game, tee-ball has got to be my favorite sport.

  6. July 9, 2011 10:26 am

    I was really hoping someone would leave an answer to your science question. I have no idea, but I’m really curious. I hope AJ will find out and tell us why.

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