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Note: Today is the beginning of XX in Health Week 2013, an initiative which focuses on issues related to gender diversity in health leadership. This post is a contribution to this important dialog.
As a kid, I had a good arm, and played a respectable third base. I could hit, too – at least before opposing pitchers started to throw some real heat.
In my backyard, I would practice for hours using a Pitchback – a trampoline-like piece of equipment tilted so as to return the ball at several different angles. By the end of each season, it would break, and each spring, I’d start in on a new one.
I loved playing simulated games, like All Star Baseball, and Dodeca. I loved watching games — I’d look forward to the “Meet the Mets” jingle on WOR and the Yankees song on WPIX. I never forgave the Mets for dealing Seaver to the Reds just before midnight, and I wept the day Thurman Munson died.
But easily, the most resonant baseball memory of my childhood was playing catch in the backyard with my two brothers and especially with my dad, who had one of those old-fashioned “claw” first-baseman mitts that he held onto since his teens.
I know, very Field of Dreams– but there’s a reason why every Father’s Day, dads tweet about how they cry watching the end of the movie – I always do.
I suspect my brothers and I came by our love of the game honestly: our mom, from the Bronx, grew up a passionate New York Yankees fan, especially partial to Mickey Mantle. When they tore down the original Yankee Stadium, her sister bought several of the removed seats. Our dad, from Brooklyn, was a die-hard Dodgers fan, and recalls the glory years in Ebbets Field. When we get together, all of us still watch baseball together, often on TV, occasionally at the ballpark.
When my wife – a college athlete and sports enthusiast — and I met during our medical training at MGH, some of our earliest experiences were taking in games at Fenway (nearly 20 years in Boston had spiritually transformed me into a born-again Red Sox fan). A savored memory from early in our marriage was the Sox 2004 postseason run – in particular, the thrilling ALCS Game 4, the most incredible sporting event either of us has ever attended.
* * *
When my wife and I were first contemplating kids, I remember telling her about my childhood memories of playing catch with my dad.
“What am I supposed do if we have a girl?” I asked.
“Play catch with her,” she suggested.
* * *
Today, I’m the proud father of three girls, girls who I’ve taught to field, and to hit, and who play in the local softball league. Girls who savor baseball’s unique terminology and cherished traditions. Girls who wake up and race to check out the highlights from yesterday’s games. Girls who have been raised on authentic NESN telecasts (via MLB.TV), and the voices of Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo. Girls who admire Pedroia’s hustle, Ortiz’s power, and Napoli’s walk-offs.
Girls who also seem increasingly partial to Lincecum and Belt, Blanco and Scutaro, a testament to the limits of parental influence as well as the joys of growing up and rooting for the local team.
Girls who love playing with their American Girl doll softball set. Girls who love going to games – the Sox/Giants later this week, for example, or the one in September my oldest asked to attend for her birthday. Girls who may find a Pitchback coming their way soon
Girls who have given me one of my very best experiences as a dad, or in life, when they asked for the first time whether I wanted to go outside and have a catch with them.
I heard their surprisingly hard throws resound in my mitt, and couldn’t imagine a sweeter sound.
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