Baseball season opened cold and rainy last week for our minor league St. Paul Saints. By Saturday, the weather turned fine and our family went out early to tailgate.
Not familiar with the term? We set up table and chairs behind the car (in the parking lot), with the tailgate open so we can reach inside for food and supplies. Abby brought fresh homemade bread and we made sandwiches with a variety of cold cuts and cheeses. Augie played catch with his dad, I strolled with each of the kids to watch the band, and friends stopped by to share a bite or say hello. Then we packed up and went in for the game. The kids stayed for an hour of the game itself, riveted to the action while Pa provided play-by-play commentary.
Some day I’ll write in exquisite (or tedious) detail about what the Saints experience has meant to us, but meanwhile let me just say it’s baseball played for love of the game, out of doors on long Minnesota summer evenings, with a hawk overhead and trains rumbling by just beyond the outfield fence. Now that we have three generations enjoying it, it’s three times the fun.
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Last night after our kids left, I met the future 11-year-old Augie. And I was delighted by him.
Other than my four younger brothers, I never paid much attention to little boys and didn’t think I liked them much. Augie changed that; I am head over heels. At three, he’s got the little guy thing going, and it includes being incredibly tender and loving and sweet.
Last night, two boys sitting behind us were totally into the game, watching each play and surmising how their own team might have handled it. They talked about plays they had made, in a way that told me they were sizing up their own skills and wondering whether they had the potential to play for a team like the Saints some day. At one point one boy’s dad (seated discreetly in the next section) took both boys to buy Saints caps, and they were thrilled. They caught a bag of peanuts (tossed from the press box during the 7th inning stretch) and they were thrilled again.
Soon the PA system began to play Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” It always starts when somebody is coming to bat and fades out as the batter steps in. Often, the crowd keeps it going, and last night was one of those occasions. It’s a great song for the group sing-along, and newcomers always laugh (in fact, so do the “regulars”) when the song goes on and on, with or without PA accompaniment. The boys were delighted. They agreed that this was the most awesome day of their lives. (They had also met injured Twins closer Joe Nathan in the afternoon.)
It filled me with pleasure to hear them being so appreciative and so devoid of cynicism. I pulled two Saints practice balls from my bag (our friend the hitting coach brings balls to our grandkids every night). The boys were thrilled all over again, and they remembered to say thanks. They were beaming when they found us in the concourse after the game to show us that the bullpen pitchers had signed their balls.
These little boys looked a little impish, but listening to them, I was charmed. I hope they hang onto their sweetness and joy as they grow older, and I hope they love baseball forever. I’m pretty sure that Augie and Vi will, too.
P.S. I was going to write a special post about reaching the 100-post milestone, but it actually gave me a case of writer's block. So I'm noting it, but really, who needs a special post to say I love writing, reading, commenting, and responding to comments? You know I do!