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!

Coronavirus: The Third Month (June)

Day 76: Monday, June 1:

Dear Stephanie, let’s get married and have kids so instead of spending quarantine binging Netflix we can tape balloons to our car and drive by some six year old’s house and sing happy birthday from six feet away.

Day 77: Tuesday, June 2:

I’m regretting panic buying $100 worth Of LEGO’s to end up with two kids ignoring them and instead playing with cardboard Amazon Prime boxes and a Tupperware lid for the last few hours.

This quarantine thing is intense!

Wife: “You should never question my choices, because you’re one of them.” Me: “That’s exactly why I question your choices.” _ Wife: “Good point!”

Day 78: Wednesday: June 3

The world is still fighting over toilet paper and today my son decides to give our few rolls left a bath…

Day 79: Thursday, June 4:

How do you keep two kids busy while you conduct Zoom Meetings all day? Give them a vacuum, a few baby wipes and put them to work!

Day 80: Friday, June 5:

What do you do when you can’t go out for pizza and you have ZERO DESIRE to cook… you put the kids to work!

Day 81: Saturday, June 6:

Today I got to catch up with good friends to celebrate one of their 40th birthdays. Interesting enough, Jax used to remind me to take my keys, wallet and cell phone… today he said, “Dad don’t forget your mask and Purell!”

Day 82: Sunday, June 7:

FOLKS… WE GOT SOME BIG NEWS HERE… OUR FIRST LOOSE TOOTH! This kid is growing up too fast! Bring on adulthood!

Day 83: Monday, June 8:

Today we attempting an early morning walk before work and virtual school started.

7:30am: leave house

7:32am: stop because Jax is so hot and “needs a sip of water”

7:36am: stop for rocks

7:37am: stop to pick flowers (that are actually weeds)

7:39am: now Oliver’s cold

7:40am: stop for sticks

7:42am: go home because both boys are really, really tired.

45 total steps logged.

Day 84: Tuesday, June 9:

Happy birthday to the only person who isn’t on Social Media. To my not so little brother! We’ve come a long way from me almost getting you eaten by a snake in the backyard when we were kids! Jax and Ollie couldn’t ask for a better uncle!

Day 85: Wednesday, June 10:

I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than spending the day with my family! It was our first family outing and first time out to dinner in MONTHS!

Day 86: Thursday, June 11:

Hard to imagine how my kids were ever able to survive a regular school days without 23 snacks.

Day 87: Friday, June 12:

Today Jackson had his VIRTUAL FIELD DAY!

Field Day VIA a computer might have been the most frustrating aspect of Distance Learning. My kids would rather watch the timer in the corner of the screen on the zoom conference than actually participate in virtual field day. Jax has now asked 16,000 times when this is over because he wants to go inside already!

PS: Do they give college scholarships for balloon dribbling?!?? Jax had a record of 30 before the balloon popped. What does that count as? Forget it… This has now turned into a way for me to feel athletic again!
As a matter fact I’m playing the Rocky theme right now and shoving the kids to the ground!

Day 88: Saturday, June 13:

My two little Dirt Devils/Beach Bums! There’s nothing like burying yourself in the sand as kid!

Day 89: Sunday, June 14:

During quarantine I’ve been slowly working on a project that I had wanted to do for ages. I figured the perfect time was now! In between Zoom meetings and distance learning (and you know life) I decided to build a high back sofa/bar table for the basement. Mind you I’m lucky to come away with ten fingers after using a pencil sharpener. so this was quite the challenge. But, table saws, circular saws, hacksaws and vice clamps be damned, because it came out pretty good.

Day 90: Monday, June 15:

The tooth has fallen out (been pulled out). All packed up in an envelope with a note. That Tooth fairy better start looking for some spare change!

PS: Yes the first tooth only yielded a dollar and a pack of baseball cards, but remember the tooth-fairy is a nonprofit…. she’s on unemployed from her other “paying” job bc of Covid-19, so with that being said, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset!!!”

Day 90: Tuesday, June 16:

You want to wear a cut off tank top and rain boots up the street on your power wheels while carrying garden tools? Sure, at this point at least you have on pants.

PS: Today I learned my children can fix a squeaky wheel with hand held garden tools. Don’t ask!

Day 91: Wednesday, June 17:

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Started Kindergarten in the classroom and ended it by the pool

The last day of Kindergarten also meant the last day of Distance Learning (for now). What a crazy, crazy cRAzY school year it was for this little guy! Mom and I are so incredibly proud of you and your accomplishments!

Day 92: Thursday, June 18

Today, after putting on my mask in the Big Y parking lot, I looked in the rear view mirror… I realized this is what my ears look like with a face-mask on:

Day 93: Friday, June 19

Dear Apple,

Can we just not with the screen time reports this week?

Love, mom and dad

Day 94: Saturday. June 20

Pre-Father’s Day Father’s Day Party: my wife, the boy’s mom planned a party for today…. my response to that… Thank you. This was perfect. I actually for once enjoyed myself. I did just enough cleaning, organizing and cooking, etc to keep sane.

Stephanie, I don’t know if you noticed but I actually went in the pool. That’s a big deal. We may argue and butt heads. But, If there’s anyone who is going to be by my side for all the nonsense that is me and what comes with it… I wouldn’t want anyone by my side but you.

Day 95: Sunday, June 21:

Father’s Day is always perfect when spent with the family, especially my two superheros!

Day 96: Monday, June 22:

My wife buys our kids a lot of kinetic sand, play-dough and painting supplies for someone who wants to stay married.

Day 97: Tuesday, June 23:

Today was my first official day I have taken “off” from work since Christmas Break. It was nice to spend some quiet time without the phone/emails for a little while. The boys and I went to the beach (mom was stuck in the office!!!)

With the tide out we were able to walk out almost to the top of the jetty! Nobody fell in (more importantly no one pushed anyone in!)

Day 98: Wednesday, June 24:

Today was a LOOOOOONG DAYYYYYY! Coordinating chrome book and iPad drop off at school for all the amazing students who borrowed devices during distance learning will take a lot of a guy! But, coming home to these two smiling little boys (SCREAMING, “DAAAAADDDDDIEEEESSSSSSS HOMMMMEEEEE!!!!” Will always help being a long day of to a happy close!

Day 99: Thursday, June 25:

My day today… on a Zoom Call with my assistant principal while working from home:

Assistant Principal: “Would you be able to…”

… my two kids run by the camera: one wielding a sword, one naked, both in ski masks and capes…

Assistant Principal: “Never mind.”

Day 100: Friday, June 26:

ONE-HUNDRED-FREAKING-DAYS-OF-QUARANTINE. It’s been 100 days since schools across the nation began distance learning and the quarantine began. As we mark that significant number in this global pandemic not much has changed. Cases are still spiking, masks are required almost everywhere

Day 101: Saturday, June 27:

Roman, our newest little nephew, was baptized today. It was nice celebrating with family for the first time in long time. We also learned Jax is a pretty good photographer!

Day 102: Sunday, June 28:

Heard the wife yelling this from the other room earlier: “STOP DOING THAT!!! WE CAN NOT GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM DURING A PANDEMIC!”

Day 103: Monday, June 29:

We’ve officially lost it here. No school for the kids, rain outside and Oliver wants his 14th M&M yogurt of the day. I have to draw the line somewhere. 13 M&M yogurts before noon is acceptable, but when you try for 14 you have gone too far. Sorry little man, but that temper tantrum is going to have to last a lot longer than…. forget just eat another damn yogurt!

Day 104: Tuesday, June 30:

What a way to end the month. I came home to Jackson narrating a live video of Oliver playing with his Magic Trax! Apparently he’s started his own YouTube channel. Best part, he signed off by saying, “Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to like and subscribe!!!

I guess that takes us into month four… hello July!

PS: Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to like and subscribe! 😂😂😂

A Decade to Remember

As 2019 its door and the start of a new decade opens, it’s a time to reflect and look forward to the amazing things on the horizon. As far decades go… the 2010s were as Larry David would say, “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” And considering this last one was my fourth… I know a good decade when I see one. But really… four decades… that is pretty crazy. I’m now 40 – as in 40 years old.

This decade saw so many ups and downs, So many gains and so many losses. However, all of the losses make the gains so much more exuberant. I became a dad and also an uncle (which is like being a dad, except you can just send the little tyke home when you are done playing with them!!!)

This decade was pretty nuts… I “went viral” as is the popular phrase these days for my Harry Potter Cupboard Under the Stairs that i build for the boys… so that in of itself is pretty indicative of what this decade was like!

If I had to summarize the last ten years in a sentence or two it would read something like this… I fell more deeply in love with my beautiful wife then I ever imagined possible. I lost my person, my grandfather, but I gained two of the most amazing little boys anyone could ever ask for. (ohh… and I won a Super Bowl)!

The decade started out with me taking the career path I always envisioned, as I took my first administrative job as an assistant principal, which I later parlayed itself into becoming a principal, including turning that first building around from a “Tier 3 Schools” in need of improvement to a “Tier 1 School of High Distinction, High Achievement and High Growth” in under three years. I’m proud of what was accomplished and I’m proud of the amazing students that worked so hard every day.

As I said earlier, there were losses. I lost my last two grandparents. Pop, left us the day after Thanksgiving in 2016. Jackson still talks about him, and unfortunately Oliver will only know him through the stories that are still told at the dinner table like folk tales. Steph lost her father, which was one of the hardest to explain to our little ones.

I was able to walk in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (four times). I caught wide receiver Jordy Nelson during a Lambeau Leap and visited Broadway a few times.

Stephanie and I moved into our dream house in an amazing community with some of the greatest neighbors anyone could ever ask for. Our children love all their new friends and we are so lucky to have amazing people around us everyday.

There is no better part of the last ten years than that of bringing into this world two of the most amazing little boys that have ever lived. Jackson and Oliver have made Stephanie’s and my life so much more than we could have ever asked for all those years ago. They have changed my life. They make every moment of my life better, more important and most of worth living.

To Stephanie,

It hasn’t always been perfect… but two decades have gone by with you and my hope is that the next many decades are spent by your side. Our boys are lucky to have you as their mother, their protector and their best friend.

2010 ➡️ 2020

We Talkin’ bout Practice?!??

So it’s FALL BALL time again. Jax has been honing his skills throughout the summer. We’ve even been watching some games together where he’s able to sit and focus for more than 30 seconds. He loves watching players dive for balls in the field and was excited to start this new baseball season.

I knew I was raising a superstar, but didn’t realize I was raising a superstar DIVA the likes of Keyshawn Johnson or Terrell Owens… or the infamous Allen Iverson

The minute we get to practice he’s tired and thirsty. He just can’t muster up the energy to go to his first warm up station. When the team is throwing balls through a hula hoop he needs to relax on the bench. When the other coaches are throwing grounders he wants to go home.

However, as soon as it’s time to hand in that lineup card this kid is ready to shine. He’s got his helmet on and he’s ready to bat clean up. He’s climbing the dugout fence to cheer on his teammates.

He went 2-2 and got his first hit in real pitch baseball. He’s a natural. He’s an All-Star… he performs best when the lights shine the brightest. (Just don’t ask him to show up for practice).

I assume the conversation he had with Coach Chris went something like this, “We sittin’ in here, I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talkin’ about practice. I mean listen, we talkin’ ’bout practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We talkin’ about practice. Not a game, not a, not a, not the game that I go out there and die for, and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We talkin’ bout practice, man. I mean how silly is that? We talkin’ bout practice. I know I’m supposed to be there, I know I’m supposed to lead by example. I know that, and I’m not shovin’ it aside, you know, like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I do. I honestly do.

“But we talkin’ bout practice, man. What are we talkin’ about? Practice? We talkin’ about practice, man. We talk — we talkin’ bout practice. We talkin’ bout practice! We ain’t talkin’ bout the game, we talkin’ bout practice, man. When you come to the game, and you see me play, you see me play, don’t you? You see me give everything I got, right? But we talkin’ bout practice right now.

Mickey Mantle, Mike Trout and Jackson Carmine

First there was the Commerce Comet, then came the Millville Meteor… and now-wearing number 7 for his local fall-ball team is the Bristol Bullet.

I was psyched when Coach Dave hooked up our switch hitting slugger with Mickey Mantle’s number. I always wore 24 for my favorite player Rickey Henderson, but I was a right handed hitting speedster who liked to steal bases and slide head first. Jax is shaping up to be a pretty damn good hitter from both sides of the plate!

If there are two guys you want your son to be similar to on the baseball field you could do a lot worse than Mantle and Trout. Growing up in 2019 (although we are Yankees fans, Mike Trout is a player who you enjoy watching and rooting for. While we bleed blue for the Yankees, I’m glad Jax will have Mike Trout, a fantastic baseball player and even more importantly a fantastic human being, to look up to as a role model.

20,000 Baseball Cards Under the Sea

‪Want to promote reading? Kids don’t always have to read a book to be reading. While traditionaly we ask children to chose a “book at their level,” mixing that in and promoting “reading for information” outside of a “book” is real world, rigorous & engaging for kids. (IE: The back of a baseball card!‬) Then, hook your children with a book that connects to their interests

I love that Jax wants to “do baseball cards.” In a time where screens (iPads, iPhones) dominate the world, it’s refreshing to unplug once and a while. I’m not going to get on my high horse and say that my kids do not have time on YouTube or what not… but I do try to make sure there is a happy medium. The best part is that both boys are great at regulating themselves. Baseball cards have always been a huge part of my life and they seem to be seem becoming a bonding time for Jax and I (Oliver just throws them all over the place).

Get your old baseball cards out now, comic books… look through them, heck read the back of a cereal box… inspire your kids to be a reader by being a reader yourself!

#ReadingForInformation #BaseballCards #InterestBasedReading #Yankees #PinstripePride #PrincipalsKid #ChroniclesOfANewDad

Los Chivos de Hartford and Oliver’s First Game de Beisbol

Baseball continues to play such an important part of my father/son(s) interactions. Especially now that Oliver is more than a sack of potatoes with eyes, and being that he can engage in activities for longer than twelve seconds now it was finally time to take him to his first baseball game.

I’ve written about how growing up baseball was so important to me and how it shaped me as a young man. I’ve discussed how it shaped my relationship with my grandfather (Pop) and now how it’s shaping my relationships with my sons. Then again… it’s America’s Past Time and a father/son rite of passage… so how surprising is it that my first game with Oliver was such a big deal.

No it wasn’t at the Cathedral that is Yankee Stadium we didn’t get to see Derek Jeter’s last home game, but we did get to witness one of baseballs top prospects, Brendan Rodgers, in one of MiLB most amazing parks, Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yard Goats. Not to mention they have the dopest logo and mascot in all of sports. Needless to say it was baseball, it was live and it was amazing.

We sat in the right field stands for a night game (which is not recommended for a 15 month old, let alone a four year old). The view was amazing and the stadium dogs, chicken fingers, pretzels, ice-cream, french fries and waters were tasty (by the way: that was just for the kids). We watched the Yard Goats win 11-1. They played as the Los Chivos de Hartford and rocked sick alternate jerseys for the game. Highlights included Brendan Rodgers going 3-4 and Peter Lambert pitching a complete game four-hitter.

Now listen I’m not going to sit here and lie and tell you that bringing two children to a ballpark is easy, or that it isn’t without its difficulties (and choice words muttered under my breath from time to time)… but it is quite amazing to be with both my boys, especially with Oliver for the first time, at a baseball game.

It was great to experience everything as a family, to be with my wife and two boys. But of course being a dad and taking my son to his first game is extra special. I enjoyed every second of exposing Oliver to how the game works… and he enjoyed clapping when I clapped. He smiled and seemed to be enamored by the green grass and beautiful sunset over the first base side seats. He enjoyed the food and the fans, but I’m pretty confident in saying I enjoyed being there with him and his brother more than either of them will ever know (that is until they have sons of their own). Then again if you read this blog often… you already knew that, besides it’s America’s Past time and a father/son rite of passage… and everybody knows that.

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Click here to read about Jackson’s first game at Yankee Stadium: Jackson’s First MLB Baseball Game

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.

Baby Cheeks and Uncle Peep

It finally happened. I finally have a child in the family that I can have fun with, rile up, teach to make farting noises and then send home… no further responsibilities, no worrying if he is going to tell his teachers where he learned to burp the alphabet from. I am now the cool uncle.  That’s a huge responsibility.

I remember my “cool uncle”.  He taught me to play Techmo Bowl and took me to the arcade is his silver Camero that would cause even most avid motor heads jealousy.  Going for a ride in a four door Honda sedan might not be as cool as speeding through toll booths in an Iroc Z… and there may not be any arcades left around, but I know I can figure something out.

With that being said… here are some pieces of advice I got when I asked Twitter for help on being a cool uncle:

  • Back off. Defer to the parents always.
  • Make it clear you want to spend time with all of them, but be cautious about inviting yourself over.
  • The parents are in charge, and your opinion doesn’t matter.
  • If the parents say, “Peter, please don’t do that with our baby,” then obey them.
  • spoil him rotten and ensure that he likes your favorite football (Go Pack Go) and baseball teams (Pinstripe Pride).
  • With your decent, disposable income open a savings account for emergencies and/or higher education.
  • give frequent small gifts, like a cool new flashlight.

All great advice for a new uncle… a new COOL uncle. Although I’m not sure who’s more excited over the new family member… me or Jax, who apparently after hearing someone exclaim they wanted to “pinch baby Dominic’s cute little cheeks,” has given his new cousin his official nickname: Baby Cheeks. Well I guess if Baby Cheeks is now officially part of the family that makes me officiant Uncle Pete. Or as Jax would say, Uncle Peep… or as I would say… Cool Uncle Peep!

Introducing my first Nephew: (I really hope I can afford a cool enough flashlight for him)