My only sister’s first child arrived, and I didn’t know what to do. He was small and angry and a boy. I perched on a chair in the hospital room and held him so tightly that he went “awk!” and then gave him a onesie that was far too big for his first Opening Day. He wore it a year later.

My nephew was a toddler, and I didn’t know what to do. He didn’t see me enough to remember who I was from visit to visit from Florida, so I put on the only jacket I owned and took him in his backyard and tossed him a ball while he waved a giant plastic bat. His follow-through was terrible but so were my splitters. Nobody cared.

My nephew was in grade school, and I didn’t know what to do. He stood in the outfield of his grade school ballfield, crouching down with his glove out whenever an opposing batter stood in the box. An opposing batter stood in the box a lot. It took the entire inning to get whoever was catching into the gear.  It was near June and this was the first time I’d seen him play this season. I had a husband by now, and turned to him.

“Let’s move home,” I said.

My nephew was in middle school, and I didn’t know what to do. He had never seen a championship team in his lifetime, so I took him to Redsfest to see mine. He dashed back and forth between autograph lines, carefully sliding ticket stubs and baseball cards from the plastic sheets of a binder, eating pizza balanced on one foot. There’s one slot open for his own. “This is important, Aunt Beth,” he says, pointing to the schedule of appearances.

“Very,” I said.

My nephew was in junior high, and I didn’t know what to do. His two younger brothers were with us at Great American Ball Park. One was crying and other one was confused. I handed one to his uncle and took the hand of the other, realizing, not for the first time, that more children than adults is a party invitation to disaster. The eldest’s peanut allergy meant that I was constantly glancing around as though the row of seats were a mine field. I kept shooting glances at him in the seat next to me to make sure he was 1) entertained 2) still alive.

“It’s okay, Aunt Beth,” he said. “I’m just sitting here watching baseball.”

My nephew was in high school, and I didn’t know what to do. His baseball career ended a month ago. I sat on the concrete step of a football stadium, watching two clumps of teenage boys wave sticks with a net on the end. I had no idea what was happening. I registered nothing beyond my cold butt and the sight of my godson standing with his teammates on the sideline, a number on his back and the name of his high school in the end zone. I watched the baseball team filter back from practice past the field. He didn’t even turn around. He was laughing with his teammates.

The coach sent him in.

“He has the ball, he has the ball,” my sister said, rising from her seat, and I knew what to do.

“I AM PROUD OF YOU,” I yelled.

On the way home, we listened to the Reds game on the radio.

12 Responses

  1. CFD3000

    You were already doing exactly the right thing MBE – you were THERE. And we Reds fans have been moaning and groaning and despairing for so long, but we are here, and if (when) the Reds finally get the ball this year, we will rise together, and be proud. And probably yell something pretty dumb that no adult should be yelling, but it’s okay because one of the greatest things about being a baseball fan is that we all get to be kids again too. Thanks for making my Sunday morning a little nicer. I hope your nephew finally got to score the points goal runs!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Oh, you’re so right. We took this young man to the Cyclones game on Friday and had a wonderful time just yelling at the scoreboard during their version of the Skyline Chili Swap 🙂

  2. Scott C

    I can Amen CFD3000. Just being there and giving support is what is needed. I remember holding my first born, and I had that same feeling. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to get the two boys to play baseball. One made it through one year, the other made it through tee ball and coach pitch. Then came soccer, and I had no idea what to do. In fact I hated soccer, but I went to the games and cheered my boys on, because that is what family does. My daughter was a cheerleader, so I went and sat through JV football games, be cause that is what you do when you love someone.
    We love the Reds and I will always cheer for them, because that is what you do. Good article as always, Mary Beth.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks! My poor parents spent many miserable hours in strappy lawn chairs on the sidelines of a soccer field. It always meant a lot to me that at least *someone* was there. You’re doing it right.

  3. Kevin Patrick

    I think your writing is getting even better…

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks so much! I’ve been taking measures lately to give my vocation more space in my life… I was hoping that I was making progress… so this means a lot. 🙂

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Ha! Yes, I’m above early-season form in Inspiration, Paragraph Construction, and Procrastinating.

  4. MK

    Every body said what will you do if he doesn’t like baseball? He was born in 1975 and I knew what to do. His 1st photo was taken in a mini Reds uniform. He attended Opening Day 1976. I coached every summer team from Tee Ball through High School (we didn’t take vacations). He attended the high school where I was the baseball coach. after high school he played four years of small college baseball. Unfortunately along the way he became a Mets fan. He started a family and knew what to do. His daughter is a high school senior who has signed a Div. I Softball Scholarship offer and his son will be the middle school baseball shortstop. Baseball has been our life and we knew what to do. BE INVOLVED, BE EXCITED AND BE MORE INVOLVED. I guess the Mets are better than soccer.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Oh what a turn! I can’t explain the Mets (why choose such misery?!) but it sounds like you couldn’t have given this no-longer-little one a good head start.

  5. Mary Beth Ellis

    I greatly appreciate it. Watch that journaling daughter… she might become a sportswriter, for which no meds are strong enough.

  6. Larry Clark

    Thank you. This brought back wonderful memories of growing up and sharing the love of baseball with my grandfather. Baseball is such a grand shared, almost a tribal experience. Friends, family and complete strangers may debate the attributes of one team vs. another, throwing the lastest batch of analytics. But our common love of sport will always connect us.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      This is a good reminder! I’m just passing on what we got from our grandparents 🙂