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It’s that glorious time of year when America’s pastime returns for a brand new season. Ever since I was a tiny baby, I grew up learning about the game of baseball. I can remember my younger brother and I spending hours in our front yard (back yard if it was an away game) pretending to be stars from the Atlanta Braves. We would pretend that the leaves hanging in the trees were the fans, and the large ditch at the front of our property was the home run area.
It seems just like yesterday that I took our old Snapper riding mower and mowed a baseball diamond in our yard. I’m not really sure if my mom and dad appreciated me doing that. My brother and I loved the game of baseball, and we shared our passion together almost every day in the summer.
My parents got me involved in baseball from the time I could swing a bat. I remember playing catcher on my t-ball team, and eventually, when I moved up to kid pitch, because infatuated with pitching. It was so enjoyable to go to the ballpark on Saturday mornings for games. I couldn’t wait for the game to start. Everything throughout the week seemed to move slowly, until it was finally game day.
There is no greater feeling than cracking a triple with the bases loaded, or making a fabulous diving catch to save a run from scoring. I experienced it all. Good winning seasons, bad losing seasons, and everything in between. I didn’t care if we won or lost, I just wanted to suit up and play the game.
I grew up in north Georgia, so naturally everyone in my hometown supported the Atlanta Braves. If you are about as old as me, or a little older, you probably remember how terrible many of the Braves’ seasons were. It was horrific to go to Fulton County Stadium only to find less than 5,000 fans at a game. We had years and years of misery.
The 1990s were the absolute best time to watch the Braves. From the now very famous Sid Bream slide into home to the World Series title in 1995, the Atlanta Braves experienced more success than any other Major League Baseball team. The Braves were famous for star pitching – pitchers such as Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux should be familiar names in any sports household.
When I moved to Ohio in 2004, I went to my first Cincinnati Reds game. I immediately fell in love with the city of Cincinnati, Great American Ballpark, and the Reds organization. I didn’t know too much about the Reds, except for the Big Red Machine. After years of terrible baseball, they finally started producing winning seasons. I was able to attend several division-clinching games – one was a walk-off home run.
Although I’m a Reds fan now, there’s always a special place in my heart for the team that got me loving baseball. Anytime I watch the Reds and Braves play, it’s always a joy to think back on my childhood.
This weekend marks a brand new season. What’s NOT to love about everything the game of baseball has to offer? The crowds, the crack of the bat, the strategy, and the push through a 162-game season, all make baseball a unique sport from all the others. Some people complain that the game takes too long. I never thought one second about the length of games when I was growing up. Escaping to a MLB baseball game for 3-4 hours was all I ever wanted to do. I never thought things would change to make the game faster. I truly hope that the league keeps those traditions alive that make the game so great.
As a daddy, I am so lucky to be so close to a Major League ballpark, as well as a minor league team right here in our hometown. Instilling a love for baseball into my kids’ lives is a real treat for me. When I see them step up to the plate, they remind me of myself. The smiles on their faces when they get a hit, or throw a runner out, makes it all worthwhile.
No matter what sport(s) your kids end up playing and loving, be a parent that is present in their games. Support their development, encourage them when they are down, and always keep your eyes on them during the game – PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN! Kids want to see engaged parents who applaud and shout for joy – not face down in a phone. Make it a rule for everyone in the family – and stick to it!
What do you love most about baseball? Did you grow up playing the game?
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