We took A.J. to see the White Sox play the Texas Rangers a couple nights ago. A.J.’s a big Sox fan, but much more exciting than the game to him is the kids’ baseball learning complex the Sox built behind the left field bleachers. They have batting cages back there, and pitching speed radar guns, and a Little League infield for fielding practice, and a track where kids can race against an automated likeness of Scott Podsednik, the White Sox base-stealing specialist. It’s like a big habittrail for baseball-crazy kids.
By the time we got to our seats just in time for the first pitch, he had run out of gas and had shifted into crabby six-year-old mode. His complaining eased up only when Sox slugger Jim Thome hit a hard foul ball right toward us in the upper deck down the right field line. Almost right off the bat I knew it was coming right toward me. Watching it coming at us reminded me of a scene from an old Warner Brothers cartoon where the falling anvil gets bigger and bigger as it drops toward Wile Coyote. But somehow I managed to catch it and immediately turned it over to Andy, who frankly, didn’t seem to fully understand what was happening. It was only when other fans in the section around us started buzzing about it, asking to see the ball, asking me if my hand was alright (it was about 35 degrees out that night), that A.J. began to get it.
And then he couldn’t stop talking about it.
“Is this a real major league baseball?”
“Is that scratch there from when it hit Jim Thome’s bat?”
“Can I take it to Show and Tell?”
The ball is in A.J.'s room now, in a little display case, but he takes it out a few times a day to look at it.
I’ve been a father for six years now, but I’m not sure anything has ever made me feel more like a dad than giving A.J. that ball.