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Teammates, friends, mensches. Brookline, 2012. (Sharon Brody)

Baseball is our house religion. Only we don’t have a house. We have an apartment, a cramped one, and it’s overflowing with sacraments. Mounds of balls and bats and gloves and gear form shrines and obstacles. I trip over this stuff daily, swear at it loudly, and very soon will pine like crazy for it and everything it represents.

My little boy is almost off to college.

Along with his older brother, he’s played ball forever. Unlike the firstborn, the baby isn’t finished yet. My lanky righty is bound for the NCAA; he’s pitched his way onto a baseball team hundreds of miles away with a bunch of strangers at a huge state university.

That’s great, of course. I’m proud, of course. They won’t be strangers to him for long, of course.

But.

Will I miss him?

Do bears wind up in jokes referencing the woods?

Missing him is huge and yet it’s only part of the story. I’ve been steeling myself for that punch in the gut since he was knee-high to a near-sighted umpire.

What’s caught me by surprise is my pang of anticipatory nostalgia for the soundtrack of the diamond.

I will yearn for that lost music.

Not the crack of the bat or the thwack of the glove or the country music dreck to which high school boys now cling as a badge of baseball culture.

I mean the chatter.

Just amble by a neighborhood ballpark on a muggy summer night. You’ll hear it: ritualized incantations of unwavering support.

From the dugout, teammates sing to their guy at the plate.

“Here ya go, kid, here ya go!”

“Attaboy, 2-1, good cut!”

“Good leave, good leave!”

“You’re OK, Sully! Hey, babe!”

“You’re right on it, Chooch!”

Every batter up, the liturgy begins anew. Inning after inning, player after player.

The voices in the dugout rise and dip and overlap and echo. Together they create a chorus of positivity. These are the most beautiful gems of encouragement you can ever imagine boys uttering to each other in public.

“Like you can, kid, like you can!”

“Just like last time, 2-5!”

“Like you know how, Boss!”

“You’re a hitter, babe! We need you on!”

“Hey, you’re nasty up there, 1-5! Let’s go, now!”

It’s like daily affirmations. Only better. No self-help pablum, just testimony shouted by your cleat-scuffing bro on the bench.

At the risk of gender stereotyping my way into hell and damnation, I submit this unabashed sweetness is not the standard dialect of boy world.

Nor of jock planet.

My evidence is only anecdotal. But among the XY set and the sports-stud subset, sarcasm and grunts seem to dominate the discourse. Standard operating procedure does not include openly lavishing one’s friends with optimistic assessments of their unlimited potential.

Then again, in most sports, the action is never so isolated to one individual for long enough to even allow this sort of focus.

Such is the blessing and the curse of baseball. Hitters, pitchers, catchers, fielders — you’re all alone out there in a game of failure.

The attaboys fill the void.

And they fill it with light, not dark. As befits the serene and pastoral nature of the game, the cheering in baseball almost ignores the opponents. Chatter from your teammates is all about you.

Sure, accuse me of reading too much into mere banter on the bench. But isn’t this what we want for our children? Able-bodied or not, athletes or otherwise? Isn’t this what we hope they will learn, and carry with them in life? To develop and express empathy, high spirits, passion and a sense of community? To be surrounded by people doing the same on their behalf? Is this not how we nurture a mensch?

Rewind the tape, please. Let me hear it a few more times. A few more thousand times, if you don’t mind.

The tenderness, the strength, the faith, the affection. Under cover of time-tested phrases, the tough guys feel the love. They met as bright, funny, oddball pipsqueaks in the days of high voices and elastic-waist baseball pants. They’ve grown together into a booming bass chorale, these bright funny oddball stubble-faces now swaggering to fields unknown.

Godspeed then, lil shavers.

When you can, slugger, get home safe?

Let us turn now to page one in our hymnals.

“Have a day! Here we go, kid! All you, 1-9! Have yourself a day, babe! Go on now and have yourself a day!”

Click here to listen to Sharon Brody on WBUR’s Radio Boston.

Tags: Baseball, Family

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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  • Anonymous
  • Doug Tidwell

    Thassa way to write that article, S-B! Keep ‘em comin, you know how we do it! Cold hard facts right over the plate!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joelle.hochman Joelle Hochman

    Wow, this brought tears to my eyes in the middle of a workday–so poignant and well-written. As the mom of a daughter it’s a lovely peak into the “other side”!

  • Bob Connolly

    A really nice slice of this perfect little world.

  • Thom Lane

    Having worked in the same studio with the Brody Beat, back when, back in Lynn, it’s still a joy to hear her voice. Attaway Babe! Ataway

  • JPB

    Atta-girl, Brody!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nbackes1 Nancy Backes

    Agree with previous commenter – a lot of heart in the middle of the day. I know myself, I continually wonder at how sweet, kind little boys morph into tough-talking teens, with a bit of tenderness beneath the surface (shoulda pushed mine harder into the baseball fields…), into responsibility-avoiding college kids (well, maybe not all of them go through that…), and then into men crazily in love with their wives and babies, real softies. It may be as much of a miracle as childbirth.

  • Barbara Nath

    You go, girl. You have said it all, so perfectly. And you have captured the eternal sweetness of our boys all focused on the same goal, helping each other, always hoping for the best, and playing the game.
    Barbara Nath

  • Carolyn

    Way to look ‘em over, kid! Good eye! Wait for yours! Sharon, you’re a beautiful writer. What a wistful, eloquent essay. I love the baseball chatter, too. (I invite you to any of Andrew’s games over the next 2 years if you want to get your soundtrack fix!)

  • Alice

    You’re a hitter, Sharon. This one would be over the fence at Warren. Perfect!

  • Mike

    Thanks Ms. Brody once again for the words, one after another, transporting me from interweb to little league. My kid is just playing wiffle ball, but all the lessons are there, even if the ball has holes. I wouldn’t want you staring down at me w/ the count 3-2 and me needing to write a ‘hit’. I’d whiff… keep slinging ‘em! And congrats on the kid! What a great way to fly away from home.

  • troy smith

    Thanks for making me cry. I mean it. That was a good baptism, a wonderful reminder of a youth not yet faded from my memory. Throwin’ ched, baby, throwin’ ched!

  • Joe Horning

    Way to paint the corners- with the clarity of a fastball, the surprise of a change-up and the beauty of a curveball that freezes the batter and leaves him wondering about what he just experienced.

  • CKennedy1

    Another great piece from Sharon Brody! Love it!

  • Jason Steeves

    Great! And I agree with Thom Lane . . . I can’t read it and not hear your voice. It kind of made it read like a song.

  • clea_simon

    Lovely. I guess going to see his college games won’t be quite the same. But maybe, if he ends up at the Paw Sox….

  • Chris

    Beautifully written and observed. Lovely piece. I’m looking forward to more….

  • Tracy Greenfield

    A beautiful and moving piece, Sharon. A home run to remember!

  • Louise

    Tears to my eyes too. VERY well written. xo Louise

  • Robin Masi

    So good to read your caring, funny, poignant-mom, baseball junkie-related always unique observations once again Ms. Brody of the Brody Beat. Talk about the All Star League! And Hallelujah CN!

  • HMD

    Better than a perfect game!

  • Ann

    Well done, and now I am blubbering. I too am in the throes of being an empty nester, and though my baby won’t be playing sports, I feel all that is expresses so preciously beautiful here.

  • Carol Lesser

    Sharon that was a grand slam!
    I for one will miss watching you cheerfully and diligently photograph our sons at countless games and baseball fileds near and far. Your enthusiasm for the team and the game is palpable both on the field and on the page. Thank you for expressing the bitter sweet feelings of coming to the end of an era. While my son will play one more year, I will miss you and so many of the other senior parents I have met this way and wish you all the very best as you journey on.

  • Castle

    Excellent piece. Insightful, poignant, and well written.

  • Jonathan Small

    made me cry…on multiple levels.

  • Pam

    Loved your piece Sharon. Beautifully written, poignant, makes the reader really relate to what it’s like to be in your shoes as the parent of your amazing boy and as a soon to be empty nester. Keep sharing…

  • Micho Spring

    what an ode to all empty nesters…Beautifully done!

  • Lisa Underhill

    Go girl. You just hit that one out of the park. Wow.

  • Karen F.

    Sharon again you have touched the soul of baseball and remind us of why our version of summers away means away games, and why we love our guys and what the game means to them. Thanks and can’t wait to hear more.

  • Mimi

    Sharon Brody blows me away yet again with her wit and tenderness, and her inimitable way with words. I love this subject matter!

  • David

    “We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t… don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.”
    — Scout 1 from Moneyball, the movie.
    I loved those endless days. I loved the smell of home plate dirt and mowed grass. I loved my glove and the snap of the ball; the crack of the bat. I loved my friends and our soundtrack.
    I love my parents for being involved and watching me play.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elaine.becker.56 Elaine Becker

    Sharon, Go to as many games as possible. I am a mom who lived in your world. I loved every minute of it. My boy went to a Div. I baseball program and played for four years. Parents regularly flew across the country to attend games. We became pals and all shared in the drama and occasional exhilaration of collegiate play. Now our guy is 23 years old and baseball is over. But we have terrific memories of it forever. Go for it!

  • SAM

    Sharon Brody is an uber-talented treasure and an unsung hero. Why WBUR does not put her front and center on its talent roster is a mystery to me. More please!!!

  • Albert

    With both of my boys now in college and neither playing baseball, I envy your good fortune to get to watch your son play on. I hope to hear more and live vicariously through your experience.

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