Hank at Bat

When I was in high school I developed an obsession of Cal Ripken, Jr. It wasn’t so much of a crush; it was more of an “awe” of what he had accomplished, his work ethic, and the way he could move on the field (I am terribly uncoordinated myself, so it was part jealousy). I developed the habit of staying up late to watch Sports Center just to see a clip of him turning a double play. “Milk and Cookies,” is what my friends on the softball team, Anne and Lisa (first and second base, respectively) used to call it.

I papered my bedroom walls with posters of Cal, newspaper articles about Cal, and magazine spreads of Cal and I systematically  collected every single one of his baseball cards I could get my hands on. Luckily, my best friend Kelley was also an  avid baseball fan, so I was in good company. It was Kelley who passed me a note in class one day that read simply, “Only 21 days until Spring Training.” That alone was enough to get through a dreary January day.

I actually dated a baseball player, once. He was a shortstop, just like Cal. In fact, that may have been his only redeeming quality. But when the love of my life turned out to be a soccer player (and later a soccer coach), I was only slightly surprised that his first job happened to be at a baseball card shop. We made bets on the World Series, he helped me add to my collection of Cal Ripken, Jr. cards, and later we toasted Cal’s retirement together. I didn’t even know if I wanted kids at the time, but I should have known a little ball player of my own was (forgive the pun) in the cards.

When my second child was born, I named him Henry and soon enough relative were teasingly calling him Hank. My first thought was “Hank Aaron.” But my oldest son was not much into sports, and I couldn’t care less, so I didn’t hold out for a ball player. We decided to let all our children try any sport they wanted for one season and then they could decide if they wanted to continue.

I was breathless with excitement with Henry took to baseball right away.  He’s only five, so it’s not like we’re guaranteed a career in the major league at this point. Still, I can’t help but smile every time my Hank gets up to bat. Seeing him lead off the base, his little legs ready to run and his eyes carefully watching the coach for signs. And being out at the field just feels…so right.

Last night he played Shortstop and a ball jumped up and hit him in the face. He shook it off and no one even noticed. Today I kissed him on the cheek and he said, “kiss the other cheek, Mom. I got hit with the ball and there’s a bruise.” So I kissed his other cheek. I think I have a crush on a new baseball player. He’s not Cal Ripken, but he’s just about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

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