While the rest of the world is busy filling out their basketball brackets, our families already moved on to the next sport. There’s no rest for the weary when it comes to children’s athletics. Back during football season, we were already plotting our next move.
“Buddy, you can pick either soccer or T-ball. What would you like to play?”
“Hockey isn’t one of the choices. Besides, you don’t even know how to ice skate. You have to learn how to ice skate before you can learn how to play hockey.”
“Okay, then I want to do ice skating.”
A picture unexpectedly pops into my head of my son wearing sequins and spandex while skating to “Eye of the Tiger.” It was like something from a bad “Saturday Night Live” sketch.
“Sweetie, ice skating isn’t a choice either. Soccer or T-ball, which is it?”
“How about skateboarding?”
“T-ball it is.”
Lucky for me, he quickly fell in love with the idea as was evident at his first T-ball practice.
Totally fired up, the Cheese ran up to the coach full speed informing him, “I’m really good at baseball” to which his coach replied, “I can tell! You look like a great baseball player!” I liked the coach immediately. Practice started and all of the moms settled into their lawn chairs. Five minutes into it, somehow the Cheese’s face got in the way of a ball. That’s right, ten minutes into his first official team practice and he already had a major sports injury. I was instantly worried that he had inherited my athletic ability (or lack thereof.)
Despite the fact that he was way out in left field—literally—I could see the blood gushing out of his nose. His mouth was open wide and even though there was no noise coming out, I knew that he was crying. My motherly instinct was to run out to him, but I figured that running onto the field in a crazed panic might do my son more harm than good.
Surprisingly after a quick hug and a messy wipe down, the Cheese headed back out with a renewed enthusiasm and took his new spot on first base. No matter where it went, the coach would yell, “Throw it to first! Throw it to first!” The Cheese didn’t catch a single ball and after about the tenth ball began to cry. Again. At this point, he was the only child at practice who had both cried and bled.
Practice ended with a mommy passing out animal crackers and apple juice which of course made everything better. As the kids enjoyed their snacks, the coach handed out the team jerseys and hats. They are the Dodgers and the coach had already had their last names ironed on the back. The Cheese was given number 11. We got home and called the Golfer on our web-cam. The Cheese filled in dad in about his first T-ball experience, bloody nose and all. Then he held up the jersey for his dad to see.
The Golfer smiled from ear to ear exclaiming, “I can’t believe that you are number 11! That’s so cool!”
It turns out that the Golfer had good reason to be overly enthusiastic about our son’s jersey number. The number 11 was the Golfer’s dad’s number all through college. The Golfer’s dad played both baseball and football in college and was quite the star. (Some of his records still stand at Northwestern in Weatherford.) The Golfer’s very first jersey number had been number 11 as well. It was a family tradition.
We didn’t ask for the number 11, it was just given to us. The Golfer’s dad passed away a couple of years before the Cheese was born. We miss him dearly and can hardly stand the thought that he won’t be around to see our boys grow up. But seeing the Cheese at his first game wearing that jersey with a big number 11 on it was like he was saying, “I’m here. I’m watching.”
Now I’m the one who’s crying. It’s going to be a long season.