It’s World Series time. Although I don’t follow baseball like I once did,* I love the game—or the idea of it, anyway—in all its iterations, from T-ball to empty lot pick-up games to the thrill of major league play.
I remember a discussion I had not so long ago with Tim and Reeve: What is the single most important position on a baseball team? Impossible question to answer, of course, but we tried. Yes, pitchers are crucial and good fielding is necessary and heavy hitters important. But the unsung hero, we decided—as well as the toughest position to play—is the catcher. Think about it. The catcher monitors what’s happening across the whole field, keeping an eye on teammates and opponents, calling the pitches, calming the pitcher, protecting home . . . all while squatting for ridiculously long periods of time.
Since I love metaphor, this, of course, isn’t really about baseball, or the World Series, or even catchers, per se. It’s my meandering attempt to make a case for the parent as unsung hero playing that very important, toughest position on the field.
As parents of a newborn, we are constantly on the alert, catching the pitches thrown by our baby. Cry of hunger? Caught it! Dirty diaper? Got it. Howl of pain? On it. And the pitches come, fast and furious. As the child grows, the changeup pitches start. Skinned knee? OK. Hurt feelings? There. Lost pet? Caught.
With time, the throws are fewer and further between, until the day comes when we realize the young hurler of curve balls, spit balls, screwballs has stopped throwing our way and has, say, moved on to the batters’ box. . .
My glove’s been down for a while now. I keep it within reach, since the balls still come, just not as frequently as in the old days. And a little harder to predict, maybe, when they do come: knuckleballs relating to school and career, relationships, finances, matters of the heart. . . But I’m still snagging them. Tim, too. We’re still monitoring, calling, calming, protecting—even as our catching prowess is, thankfully, needed less and less.
What a beautiful game.
* Back in the day (i.e. 1977-79) I was a high school student and sportswriter/photographer for The Delta Democrat-Times. Actually a stringer, I covered my school, Leland High, in all sports-related competition. (I have a strong sense-memory of sitting in the LHS team dugout with the stat book and my Nikon F1 with the killer telephoto lens, wearing sandals just once before learning about the seemingly inherent need of baseball players of all ages to chew tobacco in the dugout—and the correlating ensuing need to spit indiscriminately.)
Photo: My glove at rest. Teammate and co-catcher Tim in the background.