Friday, July 20, 2007

Play Ball

By Lisa Curry

In 1997, I was pregnant with my firstborn. Being the older of two daughters born to a mother who was the older of two daughters, I was destined to have a girl.

“It’s a boy,” said the ultrasound technician.

“Are you sure?”

“Look.” She pointed at the blob on the screen. “That’s a penis.”

Good grief. The little alien growing inside me was a boy. I knew nothing about boys, except that when we were children, my two boy cousins always peed all over the floor and the wall in our bathroom when they visited.

With that pleasant memory in mind, I spent the next few weeks adjusting my vision of the future to include a son. No baby dolls, no frilly dresses, no pigtails. Instead there’d be…what did little boys do? They peed standing up – and not with great accuracy, apparently. They liked Tonka trucks and dirt piles. They played baseball.

Oh crap – they played baseball. What if my little alien took after me? The one and only C I received in college was in a gym class, badminton and volleyball, because I couldn’t bump a damn volleyball off my fingertips 25 times in succession. I could picture my poor child, the most hopeless case at the ballfield, the kid who couldn’t hit or catch to save his life, the one nobody wanted on the team. He’d come crying to me, and what would I say to him? It wouldn’t be my husband’s fault. He was physically coordinated. He came from a family of good baseball players.

“Please, dear God,” I prayed, “give this kid his father’s athletic ability, so he can play baseball if he wants to. He doesn’t have to play baseball, of course. I don’t even like baseball, to tell you the truth. But just in case he wants to, it would be really nice if he could. Thanks and amen.”

I’m not a churchgoer, I’m not what anybody would call religious, and I’m not really in the habit of praying for favors, especially not for such trivial things. But it seemed important at the time, and it wasn’t for me; it was for that intangible little alien who, for the first time, had taken shape in my mind as a real boy.

Now here it is, a decade later. The little alien, who confirmed that ultrasound technician knew a penis when she saw one, did indeed decide he wanted to play baseball.

Recently, I sat in the bleachers at a scrimmage game in front of a group of women I didn’t know – mothers from the opposing team. Our team’s shortstop leapt into the air, snagged a ball whizzing for the outfield, and ran down and tagged the surprised base runner who was trying to make it back to first.

“Wow – did you see that?” one of the women behind me said. “That’s that Griffin Curry.”

“Oh, that’s Griffin?” another woman asked. “I’ve heard of him. Everyone says he’s an amazing ballplayer.”

I had to leave the bleachers and find another seat, because I felt like an eavesdropper listening to people who had no idea who I was discuss my child – even if I agreed with them.

Last weekend, we went to Griffin’s first 9-year-old all-star tournament. He hit one over the fence and received the MVP medal in two games. His team made it to the championship game Wednesday evening and was winning 3-0 when the coach sent him to the pitcher’s mound for the last inning.

He struck out the first two batters. Then his pitches started going wild, and he walked the bases full. His coach gave him a pep talk. His teammates and their parents shouted encouragement. And me – the woman who doesn’t pray for trivial favors – I sat there in silence and prayed.

“All right, Jimmy’s up,” some grandpa from the other team said. “Hit ’em all home, Jimmy! We’ll win this game yet!”

A couple of balls and strikes later, I was wringing my hands and praying harder.

Here came the wind-up, and here came the pitch. Jimmy swung the bat.

“Strike three!”

Our fans erupted. To my dismay, I cried. I could hardly see when they handed my son his big gold first-place trophy.

I wonder – had I known 10 years ago that my prayer was going to be answered in spades, would I have asked for something other than that the kid be able to play baseball? I could have prayed he’d be a brilliant neurosurgeon or president of the United States.

But then again, the kid is an amazing ballplayer. He inherited all his father’s athletic DNA and none of mine, thank God. And he did get something from me, after all, something that makes him a better ballplayer than athletic ability alone. He got my focus, my passion, my drive for perfection. Baseball is to him what writing is to me – a gift worthy of celebration, a joy worthy of savoring, and a goal worthy of pursuit. What could be better than that?

Besides, there’s nothing I’d rather do than watch that kid play ball. Yeah, me – the woman who never liked baseball.


EMALMADA said...

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Have a nice day

Anonymous said...

Somehow, I suspect that even if you'd prayed for him to become a brilliant neurosurgeon or the president of the U.S. you'd still have ended up with a brilliant ballplayer.

I think it's great it makes you so happy!

Joyce Tremel said...

Great blog!

He'll make a lot more money as a ballplayer (should he choose that) than he ever would as president. I know someone who plays minor league ball and ten years ago he was making $13,000 a MONTH.

Lisa, I thought I'd have girls, too. My mother had one sister, and I have three. I have two boys. That's a lot of bathroom cleaning.

Martha Reed said...

Thanks for the great blog - You really captured the essence of joy that I'm getting to know watching my niece & nephew grow up. What did we do before we had kids? I know we were busy, but was it this fun?

Anonymous said...

Nothing, nothing, nothing, makes me cry like kids trying really hard and being successful. Usually I have to be there to see it, but you made me bawl right here at my computer, Lisa. Go, Griffin!!!

Anonymous said...

Fret not. By the time you prayed, your little slugger's DNA was already carved in stone.

And would you truly, really have wanted him to be the US President?

Anonymous said...

This piece was a lot of fun. Thanks, Lisa. At one point before the gods intervened, my household was entirely female, so I can understand your trepidation about raising a boy.

Anonymous said...

You know, somehow I believe that third strike would have come without the prayer. He sounds like a natural.

Now, a prayer of thanks for the gift of such a talented son might be in order... :)

I was a single cop dad who raised a girl. She was absolutely no trouble whatsoever. She, too, played ball (softball) and earned several MVP awards; led the team in stolen bases, and made all-star teams, etc. She was also recruited (get this) by the U.S. Army to play softball.

There's nothing like watching our kids reach their goals. But, then they grow up and become boomerangs, coming home again and again and again with their grubby hands out asking for money...oops, sorry. I was in my own little world there for a moment. :)

Kids, ya gotta love 'em.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so if I have a boy (we hope to find out next week!), I'll have to prepare myself for baseball games and a lot of wall cleaning. Hm.

Terrific story, Lisa! Sounds like your son got the best of both of his parents, which I'm sure is not just limited to athletic ability.

And I agree that I'd much rather my son be a baseball player than the President. Just saying.