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.

15 Minutes of Fame

What a few weeks. Your neighborhood Dad Blogger became the newest viral sensation. I was a Kardashian (minus 40 billion dollars). I was Barstool Sports when they hit it big. I was everywhere you turned… no, but really.. it was fun while it lasted:

independant record

The number of online articles, magazines, newspapers and news outlets that picked up the story was amazing.  Some wanted interviews and others just a few quotes about the project, but it was a lot of fun feeling famous for a few minutes! (and let’s face it nothing beats being the #1 best blog on “Stairs”).

Besides having a bunch of great articles written about the project, there were just as many amazing comments on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest:

Going viral isn’t always a good thing… just look at whats happening with… well anyone who does something stupid on Facebook Live or Twitter… but in this case… going viral was pretty cool… it definitely provided me with a way to connect with people all over the world that I would otherwise not have been able to.  New Harry Potter fans and a lot of new readers on the blog are a direct result of this project… which is pretty cool!

Some of the Facebook posts had literally hundreds of thousands of interactions:

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The “Love What Matters” post and article has had over 10,000 unique interactions

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My original post on my Facebook account (where all the hoopla started) has had over 3,000 likes and shares.

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After the Parents Magazine article, they posted the video review of the project which has had over 120,000 views.

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People from everywhere were commenting on the project.  The world was my oyster for about two weeks…

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The shaded areas show where Chronicles of a New Dad was viewed in the few days after the Cupboard Under the Stairs blog was published. (Darker the color the more views there were
Here are links to some of the better articles and interviews that were written:
  1. https://www.fatherly.com/play/father-builds-replica-cupboard-under-stairs-harry-potter/
  2. https://www.popsugar.com/moms/Dad-Re-creates-Harry-Potter-Cupboard-Under-Stairs-44489977
  3. https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/everything-kids/dad-recreated-the-cupboard-under-the-stairs-from-harry-potter/
  4. http://www.scarymommy.com/harry-potter-cupboard-under-stairs-reading-nook/
  5. https://www.babble.com/parenting/peter-fragola-harry-potter-cupboard-under-the-stairs/
  6. https://www.purewow.com/news/dad-recreates-harry-potter-cupboard-under-the-stairs
  7. http://www.yuryz.com/youve-got-to-see-this-dads-harry-potter-inspired-cupboard-under-the-stairs/
  8. https://www.simplemost.com/dad-remakes-harry-potter-cupboard-under-stairs/
  9. https://www.beano.com/posts/someones-dad-has-given-their-cupboard-under-the-stairs-a-harry-potter-makeover
  10. https://www.thebump.com/news/dad-builds-harry-potter-cupboard-under-the-stairs
  11. http://www.cluebees.com/more/just-in/this-father-recreated-the-Harry-Potters-room
  12. http://diply.com/dad-creates-harry-potter-cupboard?publisher=different-solutions&config=21
  13. http://helenair.com/lifestyles/simplemost/dad-recreated-harry-potter-s-cupboard-under-the-stairs-for/article_2de9793e-d097-5a08-b5e8-5c9811c4dac1.html
  14. http://www.morefm.co.nz/home/trending/2018/01/dad-builds-sons-the-perfect-harry-potter-reading-corner-under-th.html
  15. https://vipleyo.com/america/baby/2018/01/11/this-dads-harry-potter-cupboard-under-the-stairs-is-all-sorts-of-amazing/
  16. https://www.magicmum.com/dads-recreation-of-harry-potters-room-is-what-dreams-are-made-of/http://www.morefm.co.nz/home/trending/2018/01/dad-builds-sons-the-perfect-harry-potter-reading-corner-under-th.html
  17. http://harrypotter.trendolizer.com/2018/01/dad-recreated-the-cupboard-under-the-stairs-from-harry-potter-for-his-sons.html
  18. http://www.kidspot.com.au/parenting/parenthood/dads/dad-builds-a-potteresque-cupboard-under-the-stairs-and-we-want-one/news-story/d5feb87822f3f27eb077b51b46425c93

The Cupboard Under the Stairs

There was something about this house that stood out the first time I walked inside… it wasn’t the normal things that people might notice like a kitchen, bathroom or storage space… it was The Cupboard Under the Stairs that stood out for me.   Immediately I knew I would have some pretty big plans to carry out. As an elementary school principal and former teacher I know how important it is for children to have a space of their own to read and do school work, and a space where they feel comfortable.  Clearly I took my inspiration from the famous cupboard where Harry Potter spent most of his childhood.

The project took about two weeks total to complete (as I was doing a little bit of work each night after Jackson and Oliver went to bed).  The first and most difficult part was the actual planning of the project.  With so many amazing Harry Potter related ideas floating around in my head it was hard to narrow it down to a few so that the boys could actually fit in there.  The before was a blank canvas… just a bare, cold storage space that was not very inviting:

I wanted to give the room a warm feeling, especially since these cold winter months here in CT are a great time to get comfortable and read your favorite book.  I chose to go with Harry’s school colors: Gryffindor maroon and gold. The Harry Potter series provided us with so many amazing quotes, so I wanted to have some of my favorite visible each time you walk into the cupboard.  They are a good reminder for the boys… “have fun, work hard, and stay true and honest.”

The walls had a few scribbles from the previous owners, but were otherwise bare and white. What better way to get to know some of the most beloved characters in the series than to have them represented collage style? The Daily Prophet front pages provided a perfect way to feel the ups and downs of the seven books… from Harry Potter winning the Tri-Wizard Tournament to The Dark Lord Returning… these front page newspaper headlines did just that!  (I used Mod Podge to seal the walls in case sticky little toddler fingers sneak in a snack at some point!)

Completing the walls and with the Daily Prophet headlines, brought us to a big decsion… did Jackson (as the oldest he had final decision making powers) want a window in his newly created Cupboard Under the Stairs????  Of course the answer was a resounding, “YES!” and why not… its not like his dad lacks any type of real wood working skills… (just kidding, I had no idea what I was doing!)  But, honestly it wasn’t that hard… I found a really cool looking picture frame that utilized a window shutter design and just installed that on the existing wall and presto (magical pun intended!):

… add in some faux brick to give it a, “your about to enter Diagon Alley look” and the cupboard was complete with a working window:

The ceiling was full of nails and staples from the hard wood above… and if my sons inherited any of the “clumsy gene” from their father, it would not be long before we were bandaging children’s heads… so with some work from a hammer and a great second hand find, (Harry Potter Quidditch sheets), the ceiling seemed safe enough while also providing a great view of the Golden Snitch about to be caught! (I covered the header beams with parts of the Marauder’s Map in case the boys needed to see what was going on at Hogwarts as well.)

Of course no reading room can have a hard wood floor… you need a plush carpet to curl up and read on… if you take out the face that the guy at Home Depot needed three hours to figure out how to work the carpet cutter… this part was pretty easy to do.

Lastly, no Harry Potter themed room is complete without its very own Hedwig, and as Prof. Lockhart would say, a troublesome Cornish Pixie. Add in a few pillows and a Marauders’ Map blanket and Jackson and Oliver will be off reading about Harry Potter and friends in no time!!!

Now we could just get the kids to dress like this all the time we’d be all set! LOL

PS: why does the Harry Potter series resinate with me so much… read about that here:

https://chroniclesofanewdad.com/2016/07/26/visiting-with-an-old-friend-harry-potter/

Visiting an Old Friend: Harry Potter

My Kids > OCD (Only on December 26th)

Every toy has been unwrapped, opened, put together, had batteries installed and played with. Now to shove them in a corner so the boys can play with the toys Jackson got for his first birthday three years ago. Matching outfits are packed away never to be seen again until the above picture comes out at some holiday get together 20 years from now.

Elfie has returned to the North Pole… (thank god)!!! Santa has come and gone and in his wake is enough cardboard and wrapping paper to pollute the Mississippi River (I still can’t spell without that little tune we learned in third grade). Only one wine glass was broken yet somehow 30 more boxes of decorations than we owned last year seem to have made their way into the attic.

I’ve written about this before, but I still contend that the day after Christmas (especially for someone with OCD) is the worst “day after holiday” of the year. Yea, I know what I’m saying… I was up all night and celebrated a Packers Super Bowl win just a few years ago and had to get up early the next day for work, but that was a joyous wake up… my team won the Super Bowl, so who cares about that day after… I get it… but for me the day after XMAS has always been a disaster.

However, this year… I tried to let it go as best as I could. I let stuff stay out, I didn’t pack up ornaments or the garland on the mantle. the leftovers weren’t nearly packed in separate Tupperware (yup… that’s right, I just covered them with tinfoil). I allows my children to play with their toys and didn’t even make them put one away before playing with another. I sat comfortably while a fire burned warmly in the fireplace, and enjoyed watching my two little boys play together with all the new toys Santa left them the day before.

This Christmas was about them… not me… not anyone… just them… and I enjoyed that much more than a day of OCD controlled cleaning and organizing like I usually do on December 26th… (at least for today).

Birthday Love

What a week it’s been… My Book gets the approval for publishing, my article on autism/spectrum disorder is published by an Autism National Publication, I was featured on the UK’s #1 Parent Blog Website, have had over 2,000 visitors to my blog this week alone from over 25 different countries, and yet the above  is still the best thing to happen to me all week. 

Thx little guy for #1 remembering and #2 the awesome gift.