I’ve mentioned before I have a lot of great friends that just so happen to be Red Sox fans. Everyone has their flaws so despite the fact they pull for the wrong team, they’re still my friends and family and I enjoy them immensely. I got a letter from one of them today that was so moving I wanted to share it with you so you can see what kind of impact baseball can have on a person both on and off the field. Today, we saw Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce display tremendous sportsmanship on the field despite the unfortunate events of last night and this anecdote is another fine example of the human side of the sport.
I took Emma to Fenway on a perfect Wednesday night, with two tickets from Dave. (Melissa had a key interview we are still praying about). Skipping over a lot of wonderful details of what would have been a perfect evening for us to if it had ended there — the Sox win, Big Papi homers, two people in front of us don’t show so Emma has a perfect view, she waits patiently for the Wave to happen at least once, sings “Take me out to the Ballgame” in the middle of the 7th and “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th (if you’re not a fan, it’s Fenway tradition, now about 5 years old but still a delightful part of being there)— was added this moment..
We are getting ready to leave at the end of the Red Sox eighth. It had been a fast game but it was still 10:30. Missing the last inning didn’t seem like a terrible idea, especially with the Sox ahead by three and their ace reliever about to come on for the final three Oakland outs. I’ve got all our stuff in a Shakespeare bag and she’s excusing her way past an older couple.
A man taps on my shoulder from behind and asks, “May I say something to you?”
I said, “Sure.” He seemed genuinely nice, if a bit overdressed for a ballgame.
“I want to tell you that watching you two tonight made me think differently about having children.”
I said, “Well, geez…Um…..” He caught me looking a bit — I don’t know, stunned, I guess, and wanted to reassure me that he wasn’t a bit eccentric or intoxicated in any number of ways. He adjusted his manner intentionally, slowing the exchange down, and looked as if he wanted me to hear him for a moment or two longer.
He said, “No, please. Seriously. I would really like to tell you this …”
He paused again but then went on as evenly as he could. ” Let me explain. My wife and I have talked it over for a year now and we had just about decided to not have children. But watching you two tonight, all night, the way you were with each other… It was hard to describe. But it made me think very hard about what I might be missing out on if we don’t start a family and I don’t give myself a chance to be a Dad”
He waited another moment and said, “I’m going to talk with her about it again.”
I started to say, “Thank you, and tried to insert some praise for Emma, but he finished with…
“How old is she? Eight?” Emma hadn’t been listening to any of this.
“Seven.” I said.
“Well, it was very beautiful watching you two together. This may turn out to have been a very important night in my life. I just felt I wanted to say it to you.” He was neither embarrassed or impressed with himself. The moment of silence that followed had no awkwardness in it at all.
He was done. We shook hands and Emma said, “Dad, let’s go. You said we could go when we heard the Papelbon music.” (Each player has a theme song, and Papelbon’s is a bit like a heavy metal version of the 9th Symphony — impressive in its unabashed grandiosity.)
The park was rocking. No one was seated. Many people were dancing.This was the Sox’ second comeback win in two nights, the Celtics start their Finals with the Lakers tomorrow (We heard “Beat L.A.” chants for much of the night, at random moments), Tampa Bay was losing, and clearly summer had arrived this week, and tonight in particular, in all its evening splendor, full of freedom and anticipation.
I was too rapt to notice any of it. All I could think to do as I got into the aisle was bless myself once, before I shouted down to Emma that she needed to wait for me at the bottom of the stairs.
The Red Sox won, and the Rays came back to win, but both of those events were trivial to what going to a baseball game inspired in one fan that night.