Let me tell you about Ian Desmond

If you knew us or were following my blog a few years ago, you may remember a story about my son — a then 7th grader and connsumate Nationals fan and aspiring baseball annoucer, who got teased about wearing a Screech hat to school. He blogged about it, then I blogged about it and sent it out on my twitter feed. Much to my surprise, Ian Desmond, short stop for the Washington Nationals, responded to my tweet, telling Jake to bring it to Nats Fest and he would sign it.

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We went to Nats Fest, Screech hat on head, and I prayed that we could somehow pull this thing off.  You can read the whole story in my follow up blog, but the bottom line is, we managed to not only get the hat signed, but also this amazing picture and a pep talk from Ian.

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It was a great story.  But it didn’t end there.

Last year, we were at Nats Fest, Screech hat on head, and Jake spotted Ian in a photo line. We didn’t have tickets for that particular line, but we stood at the perimeter and Jake yelled out Ian’s name.  He looked over and saw him and stepped out of line to come over and shake his hand and say hello.  He asked him how things were going at school and said it was nice to see him again. It was an awesome moment.

This year, as Jake’s 16th birthday approached, I had no idea what to get him. The only thing he’d asked for is an Ian Desmond jersey. Yeah, I could do that…but it’s his 16th birthday and I wanted to make it special. I decided to go out on a limb and ask if Ian would sign it:

ian jake tweetOnce again, I was floored — although at this point, I don’t know why because as Maya Angelou famously said:

When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.
~Maya Angelou

 

I so often think of that quote when people have somehow wronged me (or I have perceived that they’ve wronged me).  I need to remember to think of it when people have shown me that they are caring, wonderful people, too.

Again, the tricky part was going to be pulling it off.  I decided our best bet was to upgrade our regular seats on the 300 level to seats behind the dugout.  I ordered the jersey, made him a sign and let Ian know that we’d be there.

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At this point, there was nothing else to do.  We arrived at the park early, had a dessert-first dinner at The Red Porch and headed down to the seats as the pre-game festivities started up.  Jake ran ahead of us, so I didn’t see how things played out, but when we got down to our seats, he was stripping off his jersey and throwing it down into the dugout.

The pictures tell the story:

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 It’s become clear that Ian Desmond will not be wearing a Nationals jersey next season. We have known this was coming for a while, but reading his parting words to fans, made it real.  It’s baseball.  Players come and go…it’s all part of the game.  But, this time…it stings a little more than usual.

Thank YOU, Ian Desmond.  Thanks for showing us who you are. — for the heart you showed on the field….for the leadership you so clearly showed in the clubhouse…for  being a role model. And thank you for making a difference in the lives of your fans. Especially my son’s.

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We don’t know where you will end up…but the team will be so lucky to have you.  And, our family will be amongst your biggest fans.

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P.S.  Who knows….maybe someday the Screech Hat Kid will be calling one of your games. This will be his favorite story to tell.

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Teenage Dream

My son turns 13 on Monday.  In and of itself, this is unreal to me.  First of all, I still think I’m 28, so I am not old enough to have a 13 year old.  Secondly, my pregnancy (and the pregnancies that came before him) and the first year of his life were scary.  The fact that he had a first birthday was a miracle, so a 13th birthday is…well, a miracle.

My husband is a great dad.  He doesn’t always know it though.  He has no memory of actually living in the same house with his own father.  That is his story, but I say that to illustrate a point and that is that he didn’t always have a role model to learn from.  And, as all parents know, kids don’t come with instructions.  We quickly learned to hate parenting books (oh, now there’s an idea for a blog post) and we’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way.  Fortunately, I don’t think they have caused any real permanent damage.
Anyway, despite any insecurities my husband has about fatherhood, I am here to tell you that he is amazing.  And, here’s how I know:  we have a great kid.

Last night, we had Back to School night at Jake’s middle school.  One of the teachers asked us to write down one thing about our child that makes us smile.  Lloyd wrote about the joy that Jake displays on a regular basis.  He’s a joyful kid with a great attitude.  He loves life.  And, it’s true — he does.  People comment all the time about his infectious smile. Then this morning, somebody in my Facebook feed posted this quote:

Children learn to smile from their parents.

~Shinichi Suzuki

Now, I know that I can’t take credit for most of the awesome personality traits that my son has.  But, as I thought about that quote…I thought, “YES!  We can take some credit for that one!”.  We have always tried to maintain a happy household (even when there wasn’t a lot to smile about).  And, it shows in our son’s face.  If you had asked me before he was born what one trait I would want my child to have, I would have said that I wanted him to be happy.

Back to my husband and what a great dad he is.  He’s always made sure to carve out special one-on-one time to spend with Jake.  When we lived in Olympia, they would spend Saturday mornings going to Twister Donuts and then to the library.  Here in Maryland, they don’t have a regular routine, but they still regularly spend time together.  Jake will even speak up when he’s craving some Dad/Son time.  It can be anything from going to a Nationals game together to just hanging out at Game Stop. Despite all that, he’s been wanting to take Jake on a road trip….just the guys…for a while.

A few weeks ago, I realized that Jake’s birthday falls on Rosh Hashanah, which in Montgomery County is a school holiday.  Then, I heard Lloyd and Jake talking about wanting to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame someday…maybe when Ken Griffey Jr. is eligible for induction.  So I told Lloyd that he should take Jake there for his birthday weekend.  Just the two of them.

This afternoon, Lloyd picked Jake up early from school and told him they were headed to Cooperstown.  Jake was crying tears of happiness when he called me.  I’m not even going and I’m so excited for them that it gives me butterflies in my stomach.  Yes, I wish I was going, but I’m glad they are going together.  And, they’ll take lots of pictures and tell me all about it, but it will be something that only they share.  It’s something neither one of them will ever forget.  And, it is the perfect prologue to this new chapter in the Story of Us.

I am so proud of the kid that Jake is and the man that he is becoming.  And, I’m eternally grateful for Lloyd who is his greatest role model.  If Jake is half the man that his father is, he will be amazing.

Round 2 of the birthday celebration will be watching the Dodgers play the Nationals on Tuesday — and yes, I get to go to that!  🙂  Lloyd’s a lifelong Dodger fan, so it’s a bit of a rivalry in our house, but he also just bought Nationals season tickets, so we forgive him.

Happy Birthday America

It doesn’t get much better than spending the 4th in Our Nation’s Capitol. We are starting off with a baseball game then headed to see a friend at Walter Reed (seriously, thank a veteran today) and topping it off with watching fireworks over the Washington Monument. The only think that could possibly make it better is if we could sleep in our own bed tonight. But, I’m trying to stay positive and not complain. We are a million times better off than many because we live in this great country.

If spending the 4th in DC is on your bucket list, you always have a place to stay! Just make sure we have power first.

One last thing, get on over to the All-Star Ballot and vote #brycein12. Kid’s living the dream and making America’s favorite past-time a whole lot of fun to watch.

Old School Baseball, Rivalries and Sportsmanship

It doesn’t help that my mood has been foul for about three days. But, there are a few things that are taking up a tremendous amount of space in my brain today. Since Twitter is generally where my evil twin hangs out, I have been trying to condense it all into 140 characters and there is just too much to say. I’ll just focus on one thing, as I tend to get long-winded. And to be honest, I wouldn’t normally be so worked up about this, were it not for the other stuff. So this might sound small and petty in the grander scheme of life, but it’s today’s brain dump.

The Phillies. I have never liked the Phillies, but I have never hated them either. In fact, the only MLB team I’ve ever really despised is the Yankees. Well, and the Braves. Mostly because I think the fans are arrogant and cocky. Yes, I’m generalizing. I met some really nice Yankees fans in Boston at a Red Sox game a couple of years ago. And, in March, I sat next to some really nice Yankee fans at a Nationals spring training game (although the Nats were playing the Mets, so that could have had something to do with it….) Anyway, when we moved here and I became a Nationals fan, I sort of laughed at the Phillies/Nationals rivalry. Mostly because I couldn’t understand the rivalry. The Phillies have been a dominant team, not only in the NL East, but in MLB in general. The Nationals haven’t. Now that I live here though, I know that the rivalry really is about more than baseball.

I went to Washington State University. I’m a lifelong Denver Broncos fan. I spent years in Seattle watching the Mariners struggle through terrible seasons. Sure, each of those teams has had success, but none of them have been dominant for very long. So, I get losing. I’m okay with it. It makes victory even sweeter, I think. And, as a result, I tend to root for the underdog when I don’t have a vested interest in the game. So, here I am, rooting for the underdog again. Pretty typical.

DC is an interesting place because in large part, everyone is “from” somewhere else. Often, the fans for the visiting team are the majority in the stadium. We experienced that in Phoenix, too — especially at Cardinals games. It’s the nature of a transient city. While I do have my favorite teams, I also have a “when in Rome” attitude, so we’ve generally always supported the hometown teams in the places we have lived.

Last year, I was given tickets to a suite by a colleague for one of the Nationals/Phillies games. We have come to expect that the stadium is usually packed with Phillies fans. And, this day was no exception. My 12 year old son and I were the only Nats fans in the suite. This would have been fine except that the Phillies fans were just plain rude. To my son. And, he wasn’t smack talking, he was simply cheering his team on. Even when they were down by a couple of runs, he was a good sport because that’s what he’s been taught to be. And when the Nats scored and took the lead, he didn’t get obnoxious. And when they won, he didn’t get in anyone’s face and scream “Phillies Suck!” No, that was behavior that I witnessed by adults in Phillies gear, who like to refer to Nats Stadium as Citizen’s Park South.

The Nats ended 2011 with 80 wins and 81 losses. There was one game that they never got to make up, so they conceivably could have finished with a .500 record. Regardless, it was a good season for a team that had been dismal in years past. The off-season proved fruitful and the fans have been excited for the new season which has started off very well. I have been around long enough to know that April doesn’t mean a lot in the larger scheme of things, but the fans were beginning to show up and stay longer and cheer louder. I’ve heard more than one person say that they have fallen in love with the Nats. And, that’s the thing that will keep fans coming back even when they get in a slump. It’s good for the team and it’s good for our city.

The marketing team came up with an idea to “Take Back the Park”, where you could pre-purchase tickets to the Phillies games only if you were from DC, MD and VA. Now, of course this didn’t mean that they weren’t going to allow any Phillies fans in the stadium (and certainly, there are plenty of them living in DC, MD and VA anyway)…but it served as encouragement for people to show up and support the home team. Additionally, the hashtag #Natitude was unveiled and the fans have embraced it. It also helps that Bryce Harper was called up from AAA and has been killing it on the field.

We have noticed a few Nationals fans getting a little cocky. A colleague of my husband’s talked some friendly smack before the Dodger games (he’s bled Dodger blue since he was a little boy). And, we saw what happened there. There’s a fine line between supporting your team and being obnoxious — and until you have a real record to stand on, it’s best to keep it low key because as any sports fan knows, anything can happen.

So, the Phillies get to town. Their fans are determined to make a showing. And, they do. And, they lose. Twice. Sunday comes and things start to get tense. Cole Hamels decided to send Bryce Harper a message and beaned him on his first at-bat. We all knew it was intentional, and he went on to admit it was. I’ve seen people praise the move, saying it was bad-ass and that Harper is arrogant and needs to respect the veterans. Bryce Harper, on the other hand, didn’t get rattled. He went on to steal home plate. Who’s the bad-ass now? Arrogant or not, kid can play. And everyone knows it. Hamels defended the move, saying he was just trying to get back to old school baseball.

What annoys me is how Phillies fans have gone on to react, insulting Nats fans, the #natitude hastag and the players in general. They cheered in the outfield when Jayson Werth broke his wrist. To me, it’s just all bad sportsmanship. It’s not a good example — by the players or the fans. And no…I didn’t like it when Zimmermann answered back. And, I’m not saying that all Nationals fans have had exemplary behavior either.

When asked about it, Harper simply said that “Hamels threw a great game tonight”.

My observation is that Harper is the one that showed class. The response I get from some Phillies fans is that I need to remember the record. Yes, the record is impressive. I’m not arguing with that. I’m talking about class, not records. I was then told that class doesn’t win division championships. Clearly not.

I do find it interesting that despite the records, this powerhouse team has only managed to beat the Nationals 3 out of the last 14 times they’ve played each other. Calling the Nats out as being pathetic doesn’t say much for the fact that they only seem to beat them about 20% of the time these days.

Look, I see nothing wrong with a rivalry. It can be fun. But, it can also make for a miserable time in the ballpark, especially when you’re trying to teach your kid some manners. If you really value old school baseball, how about going back to the days when the game was marked by a spirit of gentlemanly sportsmanship?

I respect die-hard fans, even if especially if their team isn’t that good. Baseball is about more than winning. There’s nothing better than a day at the yard. And there’s nothing wrong with some friendly smack talk. Come on out to #ourpark. Enjoy a half smoke and some Nationals hospitality (they are great fans). I’ll even buy you a beer, but only if you’re nice.

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