Moms and Baseball

by Sean Lilly

Sean Lilly went to his first baseball game on July 4, 1980 at Shea Stadium and has been driving everyone he knows bonkers with the Mets ever since. After writing and performing with Committee for Creative Enactments as an undergrad at Boston College,  he worked as a sketch comedy performer and stand-up comic and now teaches elementary school (he’s as surprised as you).  He currently lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts with his with his wife Kelly and they are expecting their first child in October.  He has promised his father-in-law that he will raise his child a Red Sox fan, but has duly warned him that we all tend to follow our fathers in these matters no matter what.

My wife is pregnant with our first child.  We just found out this week that we’re going to have a son.

As you might expect, I was anxious to find out the gender, but as I sat in the examination room with my wife, transfixed by the miraculous images dancing on the ultrasound monitor, I became less and less desperate to know.  Before the big announcement, the perfectly nice technician rattled off the information that I quickly found I was really interested in: “heart looks good…brain development looks good…ten fingers, ten toes…abdominal area looks normal…” As each “looks good” and “normal” was rattled off, I found myself thinking “now I don’t care.  Boy, girl, that’s not what’s important here.  What’s important is what I’m hearing now—my child is healthy.”

That’s what I was thinking during the examination.  After the examination it was quite a different story.

I was working the words “my son” into every other sentence.  I was cheerfully agreeing with everyone’s utterly absurd assessment that he already looks like me (a very nice sentiment, but geez, he doesn’t have an epidermis yet).  And perhaps what I loved best was were comments like these:

“A little Mets’ fan in the making!”

“You should name him Mookie Wilson.”

(to my wife) “Is Sean already holding a baseball in front of your belly button and demonstrating the proper way to grip a slider?”

Yes, I can confirm that there is something about fathers and sons and baseball.

I love that I’m going to have a son.  I had to stop typing for a few seconds just now because I noticed that my heart was racing and my breathing was shorter as I read that last sentence.  And yes, I can’t wait to introduce him to what I hope will be his lifelong friend, baseball.  I still remember my first game with my dad (July 4, 1980, Mets vs. Expos, a rain-soaked 9-5 win).  I still remember games of catch in the backyard.   I still remember what for a long time was the greatest night of my life, the night of Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, which I was lucky enough to attend with my dad.  I screamed and yelled and carried on at every game, but my dad was always more reserved— except on this night in the bottom of the seventh, he actually jumped up on his chair to urge on the Met rally that made it 6-3.

Yes, there is something about fathers and sons and baseball.

Meanwhile moms, once again and as usual, are short-changed.

For some reason, we’ve decided there’s no room for moms (or for that matter daughters) in the grand tradition of baseball.   We’ve all known for years that baseball is passed down from father to son.   We have treasured images of fathers and sons sitting next to each other at the game, fathers and sons in the backyard playing catch.   There is not one thing wrong with those images and there is not one thing wrong with treasuring them.  It would just be nice if we could remember that mom is usually sitting in the next seat over at the game.  It is important to recall that mom is sitting on the back porch, smiling fondly while her husband and her son each pretend to be his favorite pitcher during the game of catch.  It is especially important to remember that mom is a lot more often not on the porch but often right there in the game, and in plenty of instances she’s in there because she’s the kid’s only parent and someone has to teach him (or her) baseball.  When Mom flips out when we so much as make contact in little league, we pretend to be coolly unaware.  When she runs to home plate horrified because we’ve just been hit by a pitch, we pretend to be embarrassed.   When she asks again why they pinch-hit for that guy, we pretend to be amused at how little she knows (or seems to know) about the game.  When she admonishes us to calm down over yet another excruciating loss, we pretend to be annoyed.

Then we grow up and hopefully figure out a thing or two.  We realize that Mom was acting on an instinct countless generations older than baseball, finely honed over years of parenthood, carved right in her DNA, shared by moms all across the planet. The drive to encourage us, to protect us, to teach us, comes as naturally to Mom as breathing.

If we have the tiniest shred of wisdom, we do something, anything, to let her know how grateful we are for her and that instinct.

Some of the examples I described just now are taken from the past and what my mom did with me. Some are taken from the future and what I know my wife will do with our son.

The same instinct is already taking glorious shape.

I saw it during the first trimester when my wife’s blood would run cold if she so much as had an acid stomach.  I saw it when a coworker was suspected of having the mumps (a pregnant woman being exposed to mumps can be very bad news for the child) and she blazed out of work and straight to the hospital and demanded a blood test.  I see it with every blanket and facecloth added to the formidable pile of them accumulating in our house.  I see it with how she takes care of our house, managing a budget in a way that would leave Secretary Geithner gaping in awe the same way it leaves me gaping in awe.  I see it in the way our house, which between mountains of baby stuff, two cats, and a sloppy husband, should be a disaster area and somehow and has a hair out of place as often as my wife does, which is never.

I saw it this past Valentine’s Day when I was presented with a baseball glove so small I could barely squeeze my fingernails into it.  My son’s glove.  The one he’ll wear on his first day of little league (I know, I know, if he wants to).  The idea was for me to give it to him when the time comes.  It’s only proper.  After all, there’s something about fathers and sons and baseball. Really though, his mom ought to give to him.  The mom who tell him that she knew she was having a boy when she noticed that she was watching a whole lot more of the Red Sox than she used to.  The mom who will cringe in horror when her little boy can’t even cry because the pitch he was hit with knocked the wind out of him.  The mom who will gently but firmly remind him that it’s just a game when frustration over a failed rally is pushing the volume level just a little too high.  The mom that will pretend to be worried about the furniture while she laughs at her son and his father bouncing around the living room after a ninth inning comeback.

The mom whose son will set the table, fold the laundry, and make a homemade card every Mother’s Day.  I promise you, I will personally see to that.

And then once the house is clean, the dishes are put away and the homework is done, we’ll all sit down together right in time for first pitch (I mean right in time—trust me, Mom isn’t crazy about being late).

After all, there’s something about mothers and children and baseball.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all our baseball moms, and all the non-baseball moms for that matter, especially to Margaret Lilly, Lorraine Newell, and Kelly Lilly.

It just wouldn’t be the same game without you.

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