A couple Fridays ago I was on the Turnpike, heading into the sunset, away from my parents’ house, when I excitedly rang my oldest daughter (using Bluetooth – safety first!). She was at home, snuggled in bed alongside her little sister and her mom, watching cartoons on Netflix.
Turns out that my wife was in the middle of sharing a favorite piece of her childhood with our kids when, with two rings of a smartphone, I cut in for a youthful dance of my own.
A few days prior, on baseball’s glorious Opening Day (which should unequivocally be a national holiday) I’d performed my perennial ritual of waxing poetic about the glory of America’s pastime to my two pre-teen daughters.
And now there I was, in the car, listening to filmmaker Ken Burns explain the three reasons he believes baseball is the greatest sport ever created. For all my years watching the game and for all my adoration of it, I’d never considered two of Ken Burns three facts and I couldn’t help but want to relay these baseball tidbits to my 12 year-old, who had pressed pause on the whacky early-90s cartoon she was watching to listen.
She seemed astonished too, especially by the final nugget of genius: baseball is the only sport where the player scores, not the ball or puck. Think about that for a second. It’s obvious, really, but have you ever considered it? A baseball player must touch home plate in order to score — it doesn’t matter where the ball is, only that it’s not in the glove (or bare hand) of an opponent standing on or blocking home plate.
I make no apologies for my excitement level at this “discovery” and my enthusiasm for sharing it with my daughters. The hope is that my genuine passion plus the curious minutia of baseball is one way to bequeath to them a certain level of appreciation, if not outright love, of the grand old sport.
I think progress is being made this season, both on the field for the Phillies and in my home. My girls and I are routinely watching and, even better, listening to baseball games together. Recently, we drove out to Reading for a minor league game (and lasted all nine innings!). And our interests aren’t confined only to our local teams.
The 2016 baseball season is providing my girls and me with another opportunity to bond: Vin Scully’s final year as broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, of course we are Phillies fans and Philly-area natives but thanks to the MLB TV package I buy every season, we’re able to watch and listen to the home broadcasts of every single major league baseball game, which means we’re able to revel in the dulcet tones of the greatest voice to ever call a game of any sport. He’s a marvel to hear, a living history lesson every time he speaks, a teacher of humility and, most importantly, of knowing when to shut up. Scully knows better than any announcer that the game does most of the talking, and the atmosphere inside the ballpark cannot speak if a talking head never stops.
My daughters unfortunately were too young to remember listening to the great Harry Kalas call a Phillies game, so I’m letting them stay up late on occasion to soak up as many words from Vin Scully as possible before he signs off for the final time in October.
Some would say that baseball isn’t a hip game, that young people with their screens and insta-everything are not capable of, or interested in, becoming fans of a slowly-paced sport with no clock. I guess those same people would say listening to an 88-year-old man broadcast a baseball game and watching a black and white Ken Burns documentary about Jackie Robinson are also activities not suited for the temperament of a modern child but I’ve seen evidence to the contrary. I’ve seen the slow birth of young baseball fans.