Chicks Dig the Long Ball

https://youtu.be/qLECMCargd8

Such a huge day today for father and son, for baseball fans, for Yankee fans… for baseball in general. So here’s the background… there’s an old saying that hitting a baseball is the hardest things to do in sports. Throw in the fear of getting nailed by a fastball, and you can understand the challenges coaches face trying to teach these little future stars how to play the game.

Many kids when I was growing up were told to “just make contact“, “hit the ball on the ground” or “swing down on the ball.” Hitting a baseball is one of the most complex collection of movement patterns in sports. Hand eye coordination is so important. They say Ted Williams- arguably the greatest hitting in baseball history- could see the laces on the ball as it spun out of the pitchers hand… but the game has changed drastically since the WWII era. So why then… are we teaching our kids to just hit down on the ball? So why do we want to restrict or teach our children to settle for base hits?

Folks… “CHICKS DIG THE LONG BALL!” Tom Glavine said it… heck Greg Maddux said it… and they are two of the greatest pitchers of my generation.

It’s no different for Jackson “The Judge” Carmine who is starting his first season of coach pitch baseball. That’s exactly why he is swinging for the fences. Exit velocity and launch angle and all that advanced saber-metric crap… that’s what he’s learning… he’s four years old and the youngest player on his fall ball team by far… but he’s a dominant force in the lineup. I feel sorry for the opposing coach who has to get down on one knee and toss the ball to him. It must be what a rookie, journeyman reliever feels like facing Aaron Judge.

No really, he’s going to play the game at a young age the way he wants. He’ll learn the right way to play and we’ll have have fun out there together… even if I’m that journeyman reliever who’s out there tossing pitches to him to launch to the moon.

I’m just so excited to see my little guy out there swinging the bat. A four year old hitting pitches is pretty cool, especially if that four year old is your own kid! Watching him make contact and put the ball in play on his first at bat with live pitching was amazing. I’m so proud of him… even if it was just a ground ball! LOL.

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

Perseverance

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When it’s time to go to bed and your child is demonstrating a quality that many people including adults are lacking, you have to just nod your head and tip your cap in Derek Jeter style.

I’ve done every teacher/ parent move in the book. He gets a five and two minute warning and then it’s time to head off to bed, but this kid is persistent. He tried it all… and he continues to try it all.

• I need to pee.

Even though you insisted 60,000 times you didn’t have to pee three seconds before this statement?

• I’m thirsty.

Impossible because you literally are holding a cup full of apple juice.

• I had a bad dream.

You have to be sleeping in order to dream… I call BS on this one.

• Please leave the bathroom light on because it’s so dark outside.

It’s night time. It’s supposed to be dark out.

• I want a hug and a kiss.

I gave you a hug and kiss when we came upstairs and the fourteen times I put you to sleep tonight, and when you asked for a drink… I see a pattern here.

• I have to tell you a secret in your ear

Unless the secret consists of you telling me you’re going to sleep right now, then I don’t want to hear it.

• Where’s Peppa Pig? I need my Peppa, George, Susie Sheep and Pedro Pony!!!

You mean the same Peppa Pig that you just threw across the room and said get this out of here?

• I’m really squished right now… there are too many stuffed animals in my bed.

Why the hell did you put them all in the bed in the first place?

After all that… the most effective move he made… the move that showed he won’t give in… the move that will define him is this:

When all else fails, curl up in the fetal position and pretend to be asleep!

Nice work kid… a tip of the cap to you:

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 then 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.

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)

Bronx Born Brainwashing

brain·wash: ˈbrānˌwôSH,ˈbrānˌwäSH/ (verb)gerund or present participle: brainwashing; make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure.    “the organization could brainwash young people”

synonyms: indoctrinate, condition, reeducate, persuade, influence, propagandize, inculcate “the evidence is compelling that these cult members were indeed brainwashed”

You’ve read the above definition right? Good. Then you clearly know that my sons being Yankees fans is in no way brainwashing.  You are BORN a Yankees fan.  You aren’t made one. You bleed PINSTRIPES.  I grew up a Yankees fan because the Yankees are in my blood.  Bronx born, Pelham raised… Yankees for life… 

… so what if it takes a little NYY nightlight to help make sure my youngest is on the right side? 

It’s not brainwashing if it’s in your blood!