Sunday, August 15, 2010

First Braves Game

A couple of Friday nights ago, I took my son, William, to his very first Atlanta Braves baseball game. William loves the Braves. At just shy of five years old, he's too young to know all the players or understand all the ins and outs of baseball. But he loves playing catch in the backyard or hitting a few "home runs" with his plastic bat whenever Dad pitches him a few. All summer he'd been asking, "Dad, will you take me to a Braves game?" So, about a month ago, I called William into my office, sat him on my lap in front of the computer, and, together, we ordered tickets online for a Friday night game.

Part of me had reservations about going to a night game. I knew how badly it would mess up William's bedtime routine. One thing you learn as a parent: Don't screw with routines! Today's missed bedtime is tomorrow's emotional meltdown. Still, despite the risk, I elected to get tickets to an evening game. I wanted no part of sitting outside at Turner Field on a ninety-degree day. Atlanta summers are brutal. Satan himself won't visit Georgia in the summer time. Charlie Daniels doesn't bother to tell us what month the Devil actually went down to Georgia, but I'll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul that it wasn't in August. And so, I rolled the dice and bought tickets for a Friday night.

I've never been a huge Braves fan. In fact, I'm not a big baseball fan, period. I'm more of a football and college basketball kind of guy. But I knew it would be great to go to a Major League game with my kid. After all, what dad doesn't live to take his son (or daughter) to the ballpark, buy him (or her) a hot dog and a Coke, and then sit back and enjoy as the two of them watch the hometown team play baseball?

The night before the game, I ran by Wal-Mart and bought William a Braves hat. I could have waited and bought it at the game, but given that my son is too young to care, I decided I'd rather pay $7 than take out a second mortgage to pay stadium prices. I did, however, buy William his first Braves shirt at the game. After searching the racks to find something small enough to fit, we finally found a Brian McCann jersey that didn't totally engulf him. Donning his new Braves apparel, William strutted proudly alongside me as we made our way from the souvenir store to our seats along the first base line.

Unfortunately, there was a rain delay. Then, once the skies cleared, the Braves held a 1/2 hour ceremony to retire Tom Glavine's jersey. The first pitch wasn't thrown until after 9:30pm. Despite the rain and late start, William and I made the most of the down time. We ate pizza and hot dogs. I pointed out to William different features on the field and explained to him the significance of the retired jersey numbers that hung across the way. I also tried to answer some of his deeper questions like, "Why do catchers wear their hats backwards?" and "What do baseball players do when they have to poop during the game?"

Eventually, the game got under way. We lasted into the bottom of the 5th inning before William finally fessed up that he was tired and ready to go. We left with the Braves and Giants tied 1-1 and the vast majority of what appeared to be a sold out crowd still sitting in their seats, waiting to see how the game would turn out.

As we walked back to our car, the streets much less hectic than they were a few hours before, William reached up, took my hand, and said, "Thank you, Daddy, for taking me to the Braves game."

"You're welcome, Bud," I answered.

Once in our car, we listened to the game on the radio and recapped the best parts of the evening as we made the 45 minute trek back to Powder Springs. To my surprise, William DID NOT fall asleep on the ride home. I guess he was just too pumped. When we got to the house, Meredith walked out to meet us in the driveway. Although it was fast approaching midnight, she refused to go to bed without letting William have the chance to tell her all about his first Braves game.

Eagerly, William ran to his mother to display his new Brian McCann jersey. "See, Mom," he said, "I'm the Braves' catcher." Seeing William so happy and proud, Meredith couldn't help but get a little emotional. Her eyes actually teared up (much like mine did when I discovered that beers at the ballpark costs over $6). For the next fifteen minutes, Meredith and I sat in the kitchen and listened while William told his Mom all about the rain, the view from our seats, Chipper Jones hitting the ball, and how William, himself, is going to be an Atlanta Braves baseball player when he grows up. Then, it was off to bed.

As I helped William pull his sheets back and climb into bed, my son looked up at me and asked, "Daddy,can I sleep in my Braves shirt?"

"Sure, Sport," I answered. Then, taking William's Braves hat and placing it on his dresser next to the now used tickets, I tucked "Brian McCann" into bed, kissed my little baseball player on the forehead, and told him "Goodnight."

"Sleep, well, Bud," I said. Then, I turned to leave the room. Turning out the light I heard a small, tired voice say, "Daddy, can we go to another Braves game one day?"

"Sure, Son," I said, "We'll definitely go again."

"Good," William said, "I like going to Braves games with you."

"I like going with you too, Sport."

And, with that, I closed the door and we called it an evening--our first Daddy-William baseball game in the books. Unfortunately, we discovered the next day that Atlanta had lost to San Francisco 3-2 in extra innings. But that's okay. It was still my son's first Braves game. It's a night I'll always remember. I hope he'll always remember it too. And, who knows, maybe the next time we go, the Braves will win, the rain won't fall, we'll finally know what baseball players do when they have to poop during a game, and I'll be more emotionally prepared to pay over six bucks for a ballpark beer.

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