These baseball years

On my bulletin board I have a faded article from Southern Living magazine titled These Baseball Years. It’s from the June 2003 issue, when my son was four years old and just dipping his toe in the water of what would become a full-fledged baseball obsession. Now, 9 years later and in his last hurrah of Little League, I re-read the article and nodded my head in agreement.

9-year-old All Star

10-year-old All Star

11-year-old All Star



…and now

Baseball has been a constant in our house, and it’s provided me a way to connect with my kid, who tends to be rather quiet and lives in his own head. He’s never been one to come home from school with news of the day’s events, nor does he disclose much under direct questioning. If there were a hall of fame for one-word answers, he’d be in it.

All of that changed, however, when I realized that if I knew something about baseball, especially about his beloved Red Sox, I’d have a direct line into him. Any parenting expert will tell you that if you want to connect with your kids, you have to do it at their level and with their interests in mind.

In the article, author Joe Rada says that “baseball is a grand metaphor for the game of life. Through baseball we explore the weighty issues of winning and losing gracefully; getting along with others; setting goals; playing hard and by the rules; rolling with the punches; the value of physical health and the treacheries of drug abuse.”

He also describes how his son sleeps on baseball-themed sheets under a ceiling fan with baseball-bat blades. Sounds familiar. At the time when I ripped the article out of the magazine, my kid slept on sheets decorated with cars & trucks, but it wasn’t long before we re-did his room with a baseball theme. We chose the neutral brown paint color for his room based on which shade was closest to infield dirt, and the one accent wall we painted red was carefully matched to the Red Sox jerseys. His ceiling fan is regulation, but his lamp and his curtain tie-backs are baseball-themed. As he moved through Little League seasons, we added shelves to hold trophies, and now I’m worried those shelves will collapse under the weight. 

This last season of All Stars is the end of an era. We’ve spent as much time in the stands as we have around our dinner table, and we’ve bonded with the other players’ families in a friends-for-life kind of way. We’ve seen each other through job loss, injuries & illness, new babies, and high school graduations. We’ve supported each other through health crises, including my own. The summer I spent in the hospital instead of at the All Star games in 2010 was brutal, but it was made bearable by the love and support that came from the team. The Season of the Pink Sweatbands was the team’s best, and my framed photo of the entire team, including coaches, wearing pink sweatbands and saying “This one’s for you!” sat in each hospital room I occupied that summer. It remains one of my most treasured possessions.

Like Joe Rada, we plan our family vacations around the baseball schedule, delaying as long as possible in hopes that we’ll be making a trip to the State Championship in late July before we take off for two weeks at the beach.

I don’t know why I kept that faded article all these years, but now that my kid is heading toward the end of his Little League career, I’m glad I did. As Rada writes, “Long after my son settles into being whatever kind of man he’ll be, I’ll still see his upturned chin and hear his sweet voice shouting across the backyard, ‘I got it!'” I will, too. 


19 Comments on “These baseball years”

  1. David Benbow says:

    Go Raiders!

  2. I loved this post. It took me back to when my stepson was in Little League and my husband was always the coach. When he was your son’s age, they won the City championship. Those were great times with the boys and their families that I will always cherish.


    • Brenda, it’s so true that these are special times, and I have no doubt that when my boy is all grown up, we’ll look back with such fondness at the time spent at the ball park.

  3. billgncs says:

    there is a timelessness and cadence to baseball that is like no other. May these times be forever with you.

  4. Trevor Hicks says:

    Little League has been a special time, and it’s been wonderful to have our son grow up in the game with a great group of boys and families.

    For those that wish to follow Payton’s team’s progress, here’s local paper coverage of the games: I recommend the article First Colony wins big at district tourney

    We (I can say ‘we, parents are part of the team) are in the midst of battling for a third consecutive district championship. The finals are against a really tough team that beat us on Sunday so we have to win twice to advance to the section tournament (where we’re also two-time champs!). Next game is July 5, follow the action real time on twitter @FCLL_Info.

  5. This is a beautiful post, Nancy. Thank you for sharing this your sentimentalism for your son, baseball and the community it’s grown. If there was ever a great argument for getting kids into sports, this has got to be at the tops.


    • You said it, Catherine! It’s been such a great experience, not just for the boys but for the parents, too. Who knew that youth sports could be so far-reaching?

  6. You must be so proud of your son, Nancy. What a great-looking kid! I can’t believe how many trophies he’s won. Hope he wins on July 5th!! xoxo

  7. Jody Hicks says:

    Wish we could have seen that diving catch Payton made! So glad he’s been able to play with this terrific team for so many years.

  8. Joe Rada says:

    Dear Pink Underbelly: This is Joe Rada, the guy who wrote the essay “These Baseball Years” for Southern Living. It’s about my close relationship with my son, Jake, who played baseball from age five clear through high school and who has turned out to be a fine young man, doing well now in college at age 20. That story, among the thousands of articles I’ve had published, still brings me more comments than any other, even after nearly a decade. It’s one of a select few writing samples I post on my freelance-writer web site, I’m glad you liked it enough to cut it out, save it for so long, and share its sentiments through your blog. Thanks and take care. — Joe Rada

  9. Yvonne says:

    Love this post, Nancy!! Beautiful, timeless portrait … I can almost hear James Earl Jones saying “the one constant through all the years has been baseball.”

  10. Nancy,
    My two boys played little league baseball too. We all loved it. The memories truly are priceless aren’t they? I hope you get to make that trip in late July, but regardless, I’d say this season (and all the others, too) has been a success.

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