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I was watching a little of the home run derby tonight before my wife took RJ up to bed.  It was really fun watching his reactions to the monster shots.  First, he was just impressed they were hitting the ball “high in the sky”.  Then, wanted each batter to hit the trucks behind the centerfield wall.  Then he wanted the kids in the outfield shagging balls to make catches and said “maybe they can try again” when they didn’t catch one.  Then he saw David Ortiz and said “I want Big Papi to hit ” (I won’t lie, I did too).

Of course at his age, he’s taking my lead and is under my influence.  Growing up in the Boston area, we were all big baseball fans, and the only time you didn’t see a bunch of us in Red Sox hats was during little league season when we’d sometimes be wearing the hat of our little league team instead.  A typical reprimand by our teachers was “put those baseball cards away!”  One of my favorite TV shows was The Baseball Bunch.  A typical weekend was riding our bikes to our school and playing stickball on the concrete schoolyard, in direct violation of the “no playing ball, police take notice” signs.  We may have forgotten our homework on occasion but we usually knew who was pitching for the Sox that night.  Getting to go to a Sox game, which I was lucky enough to get to do fairly often, was the ultimate way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with my dad. When the Sox got into the playoffs, we each had the battle with our parents about how many innings we could stay up to watch on a school night before we had to go to bed.

I’m revisiting my youth in contrast to how kids are today.  Baseball is just not as cool with kids as it used to be.  There are plenty of theories why, from the emergence of the faster paced NBA and NFL with which baseball can’t compete, to the idea that baseball shot itself in the foot by having too many night games on weekends and not enough marketing to the next generation.  I was recently listening to Colin Cowherd’s show on ESPN radio discussing this, and when Colin asked a caller who had a connection to EA Sports how many orders of magnitude their football video game outsold their baseball video game, the answer was that EA sports doesn’t even bother to make a baseball game anymore.  Ouch.  Then there are also the societal differences.  Where I grew up was a very safe area, but many kids don’t grow up where it’s safe, leading them to spend less outside time than they used to.

Despite all of this, we will sign RJ up for tee-ball/little league, stay Red Sox fans (despite being in Texas now) and take him to a few minor and major league games.  That’s about the best I can hope for.   I’ve given up any hope of either The (original) Baseball Bunch series coming out on DVD, or that a new, updated version of the show will ever make a comeback.  I don’t even know what companies still make baseball cards these days, but in my entire career working with kids I don’t even need a whole hand to count how many kids I’ve ever seen have any.  I’m pretty sure that going to the local park to play informal baseball or stickball won’t be the cool thing to do among his friends.  At this point I just hope that they’ll want to be outside doing SOMEthing, and that as a parent I’ll feel it’s safe enough to let him go.

Categories: fatherhood, sports
  1. July 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    This makes me remember the Josh Hamilton performance at the ’08 or ’09 ASG Home Run Derby. Nick was bouncing all over yelling “Josh” at every blast!

    My 3cents about baseball- It is still the #1 sport in NYC, LA, Boston and most major cities. Baseball is the ultimate father-son sport and for a son to like it you need a dad who likes baseball AND has the time for catches, pitching, etc. Finally, baseball requires a certain type of attention that doesn’t come easily to kids until they get older. (and 4- baseball is the greatest game ever invented!)

    • July 18, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      I agree with that, and maybe the increase in absent or part time fathers is part of the demise of baseball, but then again, I wonder how kids are getting into the other sports moreso than baseball.

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