“It’s nice to finally meet the famous Rachel,” my boyfriend’s father said, as he held out his hand. I hoped mine had stopped shaking. I managed to nod. And then, the conversation took an unexpected turn.
The older man’s voice was serious when he asked, “I have an important question for you: Mets or Yankees?”
I laughed nervously, and squeaked out, “Um. I’m not really into baseball.”
The diehard Mets fan seemed a little surprised by my answer. He quickly glanced at his son, then back to me. “Well, we’re a baseball family,” he said.
My boyfriend reappeared at my side. “I’ll take you to a Mets game and change your mind,” he promised. I tried not to sigh. Sports were never my thing. But I wasn’t willing to disappoint the man I loved.
A few weeks later, I found myself sitting in Shea Stadium. Between bites of hotdog, my boyfriend explained the game. Since baseball was clearly important to him, I tried to take an interest. He patiently answered my simple questions, but his passion for the sport seeped into every word. That got my attention. Somewhere during that evening, I realized that there was more to it than hitting a ball with a stick. And to my surprise, watching a baseball game was actually fun.
I agreed to go to more games, and I started to understand the allure. The exciting home runs, the disappointing losses, the history, the strategy. The smell of a hot pretzel sprinkling salt on my lap; the feel of a plastic seat on a cool spring evening or hot summer afternoon. And I appreciated other nuances. I loved the fairness of baseball. I liked that there was no clock because games naturally found their length. Each team got 27 outs. Every player had an important role. The action is evenly spread across the innings.
Most of my adult milestones coincided with Mets milestones. I celebrated my first job offer by laminating a newspaper article about player Jose Reyes, the “Man of Steal.” I proudly hung it on my office wall. We got engaged a few days after the 2006 playoffs. 2010 and 2012 were quiet years for Mets baseball, and which gave my husband and me extra time to prepare for our daughters’ autumn arrivals. And in 2015, the Mets swept the Cubs and finally won the National League pennant. My husband and I were celebrating my 35th birthday in Manhattan that night, and watched the Empire State Building turn orange and blue.
For Jewish parents, the wisdom goes that we must teach our children the Torah, teach them a trade, and teach them to swim. But if the Talmud had been written in New York in present day, I’m sure baseball would’ve made the list. My husband and I are passing our love of baseball onto our daughters. There are invaluable life lessons taught by baseball, and I want my children to learn them.
First, teamwork is a fundamental component of baseball. Every player has an opportunity for individual glory, but he can’t win a game on his own. Communication with others is critical. Baseball is a game with definite rules, and they cannot be broken without consequences. And then there are the inevitable setbacks: even the best team will lose games. On those days, players need to accept they made mistakes, and figure out how to move on.
Most importantly, I want them to learn that it’s possible to make a comeback. Teams that are down several runs can still ultimately win. They have the chance to overcome obstacles, because baseball, like life, is full of possibilities. That’s I want my children to remember that we are a baseball family.