Tag Archives: baseball

My Son Hates Baseball

willbaseball

“Dad, I don’t think I like baseball and I don’t want to play anymore.”

Except for Will saying he doesn’t love me or that he’s become a New York sports fan, nothing uttered from my 6-year-old’s lips stings as much as my boy — my oldest son — telling me he doesn’t want to partake in America’s pastime. My father’s pastime. My pastime.

And the first thing that ran through my head was “How can I raise a kid who doesn’t like baseball?”

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“Hey Dad, You Wanna Have a Catch?”

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“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

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There are two types of people in this world — people who love Field of Dreams and get choked up at the end of the movie, and heartless jerks.

Fathers, sons, and baseball. There’s just something special about America’s pastime, boys, and their dads that defies explanation. It’s the reason why I went out and bought a tiny baseball mitt when I found out MJ was pregnant, and why the first thing that popped into my head when I realized I had a son was teaching him how to play catch. And when it’s the Boston Red Sox — one of the most storied franchises in all of sports — you’re talking about a birthright which generations of fans have laid claim to and passed down to their kids. Especially in my family, where we take Boston sports fanaticism to previously unheard of levels.

Which is why attending Game 2 of the World Series with my father and brother was one of the most special moments of my life.

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I Am an Overbearing Sports Parent

It was a little slip of paper tucked in amongst some other stuff Will brought home from preschool. Truth be told, I almost missed it entirely. But when my eyes scanned the words on the page, I was suddenly flooded with tidal waves of excitement. And trepidation. Followed by shame for acts I haven’t even committed yet.

“Four-Year-Old Wiffleball Sign-Ups”

There’s a league for 4-year-olds that starts in April and runs to the end of May. Every Saturday Will is going to play Wiffleball with a bunch of other kids and learn the fundamentals of the game. Well, technically he’ll be perfecting the fundamentals since I’ve been teaching him to swing a bat and throw a baseball since he was about a week old. But I digress.

On the surface this seems totally innocuous and very much a win-win. Will gets to be active, play with other kids and learn about a sport all at the same time. And it’ll be valuable bonding time with him as we practice and get to be together doing something we both love. All of that is true. On paper this should be a very fun, laid back time during which I can take pictures and talk with other parents and delight in watching my son scamper playfully around the baseball diamond.

But I don’t think that’s how it’s going down.

To understand what I’m talking about, you need to know a few things about me. First of all, I’m a perfectionist. Not regarding everything in my life, but certainly regarding sports. And second, I’m a huge crybaby when things don’t go perfectly. Which is often.

When I started playing baseball at the age of 5 I showed promise very early. I had a great arm and I could hit. My first coach was a friend of my dad’s, a born and bred New Jersey guy named Bill. He was a really good guy underneath his gruff exterior, but he was also a miserable prick. He knew I was good so he held me to a higher standard. While other kids were being praised for their attempts to catch the ball, I was criticized even when I did catch it for not using the right fundamentals. Or if I didn’t hit the cutoff man fast enough. Or if I legged out an infield single he’d poke fun at me for not hitting it in the outfield.

Ultimately he made me better, but I carried lofty expectations with me when I advanced to the next leagues for older kids. And that’s when it got really bad.

I made the all-star team when I was 9 years old. We had a really great team and a lot of awesome players in our age group, and we’d play together every summer for the next four years. Our coaches really knew what they were talking about and I learned more than I ever imagined about baseball in that time. But they expected a lot. I mean it. A lot. For instance, when we were 10, I remember we lost a game to our rival, Franklin. And after the game they told us we let ourselves down, our parents down and disappointed the entire town. I was crushed and in tears. And I vowed to never let anyone down again.

As you already know, that’s impossible. But combine that need to please with a perfectionist’s attitude and you got me as a kid. The kid who cried when he struck out. The kid who cried and threw a temper-tantrum when he didn’t make a play in the field. The kid who—and I’m not making this up—cried after hitting a double off the fence because it wasn’t a homerun. And of course, the kid who nearly had a mental breakdown if we lost the game. Let’s just say there are plenty of pictures of me with my team holding second place trophies and crying hysterically.

A neurotic, hyper-competitive, perfectionist crybaby. Those were some good times.

But for better or worse, I’ve carried that with me even to now. While my athletic days have long since passed me by, that attitude resurfaces in even the most mundane of endeavors. For example, MJ will no longer go bowling with me. When we were dating, she was beating me in the 8th frame and I was so pissed off I started kicking the ball return. And those of you who have watched Patriots and Red Sox games with me can probably attest to the fact that I am, well…not exactly a sane person when things start to go south.

Even with Will I’ve seen the competitiveness flare up. I eagle-eye his milestones and make sure he’s ahead of the curve. I compare him relentlessly to other kids his age and older, and get legitimately upset if they can do things he can’t. Hell, his recent progress report from preschool showed him to be advanced in every category except letters. He’s average in letters. This struck such fear into me that I’m now going to work more on letters with him every single night until he’s reading Stephen King books.

Which brings us to wiffleball.

When I found out I had a son my first thoughts were of teaching him sports. Unfortunately, I fear I will be “that sports parent.” The one everyone hates. The one who takes a kids’ game way too seriously. The one whose son goes 3 for 5 and then criticizes him for striking out in the third inning. And God forbid Will is average or even below average at sports. I’m not sure I can handle that.

I was raised with high standards, with sports and even grades. While everyone else had the traditional grading system, mine was different. An A was good, a B was a C and a C was failing. I still remember my dad asking me why my A- couldn’t have been an A. And I don’t fault him for that, it kept me on my toes and made me work hard. But I also remember it feeling like an intense amount of pressure.

I don’t want to be That Sports Parent. I really don’t. But I think it might be inevitable. Thankfully MJ will disembowel me if I get too out of hand, so it’s nice that I have her to correct me. Yet even if I’m not expressing it, I’ll be thinking it. I already have visions of Will as the star catcher hitting the game-winning homer to take the state title. Yes, I absolutely intend to live out my dreams of unfulfilled athletic glory through my son. And yes, I’m also aware of how pathetic and unfair that is.

But I think Will is going to ultimately thank me during his Cooperstown acceptance speech. The road to the Hall of Fame starts with Wiffleball!

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Will’s 1st Red Sox Game: A Tradition Passed to the Next Generation

The grass and the Monster.

I’m not sure exactly when I went to my first Red Sox game, but I was probably 6 or 7. Roger Clemens was pitching, although I had no idea what that meant at the time. All the other memories are fuzzy, except for one that’s crystal clear. Walking with my dad in Fenway Park, through the crowded concourse, up a ramp until suddenly my vision was flooded with the greenest grass I’d ever seen, and the Green Monster (Fenway’s signature 37.5-foot wall in left field) looming larger than life.

I was blown away. I remember thinking how all this green space could exist in the city. Wondering how ANYONE could ever muscle a ball over the Monster. And feeling the whole thing was surreal because I had seen Fenway on TV so many times, it felt like it was this faraway fantasy land that didn’t really exist. For 10 seconds I just stared, lost in the enormity of it all.

I was only a little kid, so I didn’t understand the intricacies of the game yet. All I knew was how important the team was to my dad. I watched him more than I watched the game. He lived and died on every pitch so dammit I was gonna do the same thing. Just like he learned from his grandfather. I remember him telling me the Red Sox would eventually break my heart, but it’s our job to root for them no matter what. For life. And so I did, no questions asked.

The only thing I remember from that day 25 years ago was my dad putting his hand on my shoulder and giving a squeeze. I didn’t know it at the time, but that squeeze was his way of saying “Welcome to the club little man.”

Fast forward to last weekend.

I had been going back and forth on whether or not I could bring Will to a Red Sox game this season. Ultimately I decided against it for several reasons. First of all I thought he was too young. But mostly, it’s because the Red Sox have the most expensive tickets in baseball. Bleacher seats are $25 face value. Except everything is sold out so you can’t get face value. Usually you have to pay $50 per ticket for small seats so far away you can barely see the action. And the concession prices are so disgustingly inflated you need to take out a bank loan before you buy a couple of hotdogs. Combine all of this with the fact that 3-year-olds have the attention span of a gnat and you’re traveling an hour and spending a shit ton of money for a couple of innings until the whining & temper-tantrum kicks in.

But my parents, who are awesome, decided to get Will and I tickets as a birthday present to me. So with the financial impediments cleared, I was THRILLED to take Will to his first game. And formally induct him into a club populated by the men in my family for many, many years.

I had grand plans for last Saturday. Will and I were going to take the train in because he loves riding the subway. The Red Sox were playing the Oakland A’s. Jon Lester was pitching. Our seats were along third base way up high in the State Street Pavilion. I had it all planned out and—because I blog everything—I was going to find a way to record it all for posterity, as I do with most everything that happens in my life. And the crowning jewel would be the look on his face when I walked the next generation up the ramp to worship in baseball’s most glorious cathedral.

As you can see, we got plenty of pictures.

Not only that, but Will had a truly great day. He got to ride two trains into Boston which may or may not have been the highlight of his day. He had his first Fenway Frank (picture on the right). He ate ice cream from a plastic mini Red Sox helmet. We bought a game program as a keepsake. Wally the Green Monster (who I hate because he’s the worst mascot in sports) patted Will on the head. Will danced with a beautiful woman between innings (video is at the bottom of this post). Jason Varitek—the aging Captain—hit a homerun, which Will shockingly called just before he hit it. All in all he lasted six spectacular innings.

Oh yeah, the Red Sox won the game too.

I share so much of my life on this blog. I detail the good, the bad and the just plain silly. So it makes sense that I’m sharing this experience. This wonderful, memorable day for which I’ll be forever thankful. The day I officially passed on a love of Red Sox baseball to my son. Just like my dad did for me.

But as for capturing Will’s expression when he came upon the beauty that is Fenway Park for the very first time and started a lifelong love affair with baseball and Boston?

Sorry folks. I’m keeping that one for myself.

 

 

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And the Winner Is…

OK, so I forgot to pick a winner for the Futures at Fenway giveaway last night. It was my birthday, sue me. I couldn’t decide between the entries as they were all worthwhile. So I decided to take the gutless way out and pick names out of a hat.

And the winner of the free 4-pack of tickets to Fenway Park this Saturday is…

HEATHER!

Heather wrote:

“We’re taking a road trip from Philadelphia to Maine and want to make the journey part of the vacation. Two of our children were born in Boston and now live in Phillies country (not easy, but I guess easier than living with Yankee fans). When we make our trips back to New England – they stock up on Red Sox and Patriots shirt/hats/etc. Their bedroom is devoted to their New England teams, yet they are stand-alone fans in their school. A trip to Fenway would definitely make it to their 10 Ten list! Thanks.

Congratulations to Heather and her brave kids. We all know Philly fans are the craziest bunch of lunatics on the planet so I can only imagine the hardships her children are facing. These are the same fans who booed Santa Claus and a paralyzed Cowboys wide-receiver, so I can only imagine the crap her kids take when they wear their Sox gear to school. The least I can do for them is treat them to one day in friendly territory.

Now I know some of you might be miffed because her comment was left after my self-imposed 5 p.m. deadline yesterday. But tough shit. The deadline was completely arbitrary and I picked names out of a hat. It was done fairly. Besides, if I really was corrupt I would’ve just chosen Slader because he’s my neighbor. Sorry Slader, I hope I can still borrow the proverbial cup of sugar.

Heather, please email me at aaron_gouveia@yahoo.com with your name, address and cell phone number so I can give the Red Sox organization your contact info and you can pick the tickets up at will call.

Thanks to the Red Sox for the tickets, to all of you for participating and GO SOX!

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