Oliver’s First Baseball Glove

We keep coming back to baseball. For some reason it’s like the glue that holds this blog together. It’s the glue that has helped bond my family together from Pop to Oliver. Through this Covid-19 pandemic all we have wanted was sports to get our nation back to cheering for something and unite most of us in hating the Red Sox.

Up until today Major League Baseball wasn’t a thing. It started and stopped and started again (and stopped again in the top of the 6th inning… not because of Covid, but because of baseball’s arch memos is: RAIN. BUT, that did not stop us from celebrating opening day… in… July! Opening day is more than just games starting, it (usually signals that warmer weather is near and fathers and sons can start playing catch again.

To that point, giving your son his first baseball glove is something that needs to be celebrated.

The history of baseball is passed on from generation to generation. My grandfather passed it on to me and I’ll pass it on to my sons. I was Phil Rizzuto turning double plays and Rickey Henderson robbing homeruns over Pop’s Boxwood Hedges.

Getting your first glove is a rite of passage. I still have the glove Pop bought me. I remember going to the store to buy it with him. I remember breaking it in and the smell of the leather. I blogged about buying Jax his first glove a couple of years ago and now it is Oliver’s turn.

While Jax is devolving into a pretty decent switch hitter who throws lefty, Oliver is just learning the basics, but seems to have the right handed swing and also throws righty like his dad. Playing catch is beginning to actually “happen” now. Both Jax and Oliver enjoy it and Oliver now, with his very own glove is definitely more interested, even it means he’s purposely throwing a ball in the woods, laughing about it and then spending 10 minutes trying to find it… over and over and over again!

Being able to now be out there with both my sons, all with our baseball gloves on… there’s just something magical about it. The ball going back and forth between us… no words need to be spoken, although neither of my children usually go more than thirty seconds without talking… again just like dad). But, just the popping of the glove…. like an invisible string connecting us. That’s what makes it magic. In the end that’s what baseball does, it connects us with our past, with each other… and right now it’s connected Oliver to his big brother and dad!

The Bonds of Baseball

A few years ago Marc Fisher, of the Washington Post wrote, “Baseball has lived for the better part of a century on its unchanging character, its role as a bond between generations, its identity as a quintessentially American game that features a one-on-one face-off of individual skills tucked inside a team sport.” For almost 120 years baseball has been dubbed the “national pastime.” 

Children still take to Little League fields every spring, some on pace for the college scholarships and others are content to stand in right field picking dandelions and looking at airplanes fly overhead. The song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is still as well known as any on the radio and writers and directors have used baseball to tell amazing stories like, The Natural, Bang the Drum Slowly, Shoeless Joe (the basis of Field of Dreams) and The Sandlot.

This is a game that has stood the test of time. A game that to this day has not succumbed to the fast paced mentality that other sports thrive upon (at least not totally). Baseball is and will always be a game handed down through the generations. From father to son and son to grandson, baseball will always in and of itself stand for family and transition. In an ever changing society there has always been one constant in life… baseball

Baseball belongs to me. It belongs to my grandfather and to my sons. The memories can never and will never fade. The thought of my grandfather standing across from me on the other side of a sprawling, beautiful manicured lawn plays over and over in my head like an old silent movie. It’s as vivid as is it were yesterday. Shopping for my first “real” baseball glove. Watching him intently as he showed me how to break it in. Oil it, tuck a ball inside just right and wrap it up with twine. I still have that glove. It smells like days past, like Charles Place, like a younger version of my grandfather when he was still able to move without pain to show me how to field a ground ball like the Scooter… it smells like baseball.

Baseball is a form of communication in and of itself and I don’t mean the language of the game or the intricacies of how someone might describe the perfect swing of Teddy Ballgame or Junior. It’s a silent language that doesn’t need to be spoken because it’s the silence of the game that speaks volumes. I sat at my grandfather’s feet as he relaxed in his chair. We barely spoke during innings. We watched, and he inserted stories of Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. It was like I was there. Most people my age never saw Gehrig or Berra play… but I did. Through my grandfather’s words I saw Murder’s Row torment pitchers and watched Maris and Mantle chase Ruth.

No one can ever take that from me. No one can ever tell me those things didn’t happen. They are history, they are symbolic to me. The sound of a baseball snapping as it hits your glove. Feeling the vibrations that ring through your hands and arms as your bat makes connection with your favorite pitch (low and inside- something I could pull).

Practicing robbing home runs in front of Pop’s shrubs led me to firmly believe I would be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees when I grew up… (damn you Derek Jeter).

Regardless of whatever happened to my dreams of becoming an all-star infielder, I’ll never really know… but what I do know is that soon the name Fragola will again be running out of a dugout and taking his rightful place on a baseball diamond.  Jackson starting t-ball is about the single most exciting thing I have been looking forward to as a parent!

Buying his first baseball glove and then a father and son’s first time ever playing catch. (Yes I cried a little in the sporting good store).

Playing catch with my son is more than father – son bonding time. It is a family heirloom that gets passed down from generation to generation. One that I look forward to sharing with boys of my sons. It’s also an an opportunity for me to share my passion for the game and share stories of players like Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey, Jr as my grandfather did for me with the best players of his time. And I look forward to being able to tell my sons about the old days when packs of baseball cards were only a few dollars and rookie cards were all the rage.

Super proud dad moment. The first time your son wants to go through his baseball cards on his own… thanks @Topps for keeping the family tradition alive. #BaseballCards #Topps

Soon I’ll just be a dad in the stands or maybe one day even a coach in the dugout. But for now I’m content passing on the love for the game to both my sons, one of whom has finally begun his amazing story as a baseball player.

PS: ThrowBack to ’86: I wasn’t much of a power hitter in case you couldn’t tell from those scrawny arms… but man could I lay down a perfect bunt.