Field of Dreams

Lets start out with the negative… on the drive to Jackson’s first baseball game… In the course of a seven minute ride to the field he asked, “are there yet,” 27 times. I was sure as sure as soon as we get there he’d want to go home.

There were, however, a lot of positives in his first game. Lots of great points to build off of. At such a young age players haven’t had a chance to develop bad habits, so establishing proper technique and having the time to work on skills no matter the child’s age is always a plus.

Which brings us to Jackson’s first “official” T-Ball game. Jax showed incredible speed, a quick first step and the ability to cover all positions as evident from his first time playing the field. About 12 seconds in he took off into the outfield, crossed over two other fields, went down a massive hill and literally into the parking lot of the next school before anyone could even get within shouting distance.

Later that inning… he took off for a second time. He was found in the woods a few minutes later.

Although he seems to show above average skills as a fielder and the speed to be a plus base runner, it was at the plate where Jax showed off his major league ready skills.

Batting three times in three innings he went 3-3 with three runs scored. (Mind you everyone went 3-3 with three runs scored. However not one other child hit from both sides of the plate. I’m not sure if he’s going to stay a switch hitter, and it’s clear he doesn’t have the sweet swing of Will “the thrill” Clark just yet, but I’ll pretty impressed with a barely four year old hitting righty and lefty in his first game.

 

 

I had fun… he had fun… and he looked damn cute doing it! The only thing better them playing the game yourself, is watching your son play it.

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.

MLB Scouting Report

​Through his first three years Jackson has shown prowess as an athlete, with quick feet, soft hands and an eye for the ball, rumor has it that he hit .435 with 14 home runs and 16 stolen bases in the AAA KinderCare Playground League. A major league scout who requested anonymity furnished Chronicles of a New Dad with the following scouting report of the future major leaguer…

BATTING: 

Jackson shows some bat speed, but his swing is stiff. He is a physical specimen in the box (listed at approximately 3 ft tall and -almost 36 pounds) with good balance in his swing. He is stiff, but I it’s noted that he has loosened up a bit lately. His limited pitch recognition is his issue. That will come with more at bats, and with limited plate appearances (maybe three days worth of hitting while not being preoccupied with the dogs barking, the basketball hoop, or neighbors walking but, there is still room to grow). What he is doing is really difficult, being a three year old trying to make the jump from Pre-K to the major leagues, but if anyone is going to do it, it is definitely going to be him.

DEFENSE:

Defensively, Jackson has choppy footwork. His first step is slow and it often looks like he’s not sure where is going to go. He will get to the routine play, but he is not going to win you a ball game there and potentially could get you beat. He runs with reckless abandon and will run through a brick wall for you (he’s actually done it a few times already).

ARM:

Once he figures out what arm to throw with on a regular basis, he projects to have a canon. Has been throwing household objects around the kitchen and family room for a while now and has even broken a few toys with his laser like throws.

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The House That Jeter Built

Sometimes things in life get taken for granted. Growing up so close to Yankee Stadium, having family in the Bronx and spending summers with a grandfather who could name every player who ever wore the Pinstripes made days like today a common occurrence.

The problem with days like these, where you may just be on autopilot is how sometimes a moment may brush past you like a stranger in a crowd. At the time you don’t even realize how significant it was. We so often don’t notice the most important moments in our lives as they’re happening and only wind up distant memories we try to recal through the years.

As a new dad I have been determined to not let these moments slip away from me. This blog definitely helps, but today was more than a moment captured in words or photos… It was a day that I will never forget. Baseball has always been that one constant. The one thing that always seems to be there.

It’s a rite of passage, a grandfather/father/son tradition. The grass smells different, the sky is a clearer shade of blue and even paying $37 for a hotdog seems reasonable when you consider that all that really matters is you are with your son.

Today Jax and I and mom spent quality time together. Time that wasn’t measured by minutes or seconds… But measured by the fact that this moment will never slip away from me.

Growing up my grandfather talked about how indescribable it was watching Mantle and DiMaggio play. The aura that they exuded was legendary and defined a generation. To us, to me… Derek Jeter is that generation defining player. He is and always will be the greatest Yankee I’ve ever seen play. I just hope Jax can watch someone he can call an iconic Yankee too. I love this picture and was stoked to get a shot of us two with Jeets in the background. #NYY #DerekJeter #RE2PECT

Huge thank you to Coach G for making this day happen.

“Ray. People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around”, you’ll say. “It’s only $20 per person”. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

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Jax now joins the shadows of Yankee greats that have walked the hallowed grounds of the #HouseTheJeetsBuilt #NYY #Yankees #Yankees #RE2PECT

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Is there a better moment and a father’s life then taking his son to his first #Yankees Game? #fatherandson #Baseball #Jax1stGame #FarewellTour #Jeter # RE2PECT #JaxSawJeter