PawSox game with my son leaves memories to last a lifetime
PawSox game with my son leaves memories to last a lifetime
PAWTUCKET - I had this perfect picture in my head of how it would all go. My 3-year-old son, Wesley, and I would be in our seats by first pitch, both of us with gloves in hand, him mesmerized by this new experience and me watching with calm, fatherly love.
Our first baseball game together would be what every parent dreams of, I thought. My son would have no complaints and would chatter the whole time about how amazing it was.
Boy was I off-base.
The whole way to McCoy Stadium last Friday, my son couldn't get it out of his head that we wouldn't actually be playing baseball. I shrugged it off, thinking he'd forget about it by the time we arrived.
We showed up about five minutes early, just enough time, I thought, to get in and find our seats. But Wes wasn't having it.
"I want to play baseball with you," he said.
"We can play baseball tomorrow," I said. "We're going to watch the big men play baseball."
"We're big men," he said. "We can play."
I finally convinced him that a one-on-one game wasn't going to happen and that we should go inside. The score was already 2-1 Buffalo and the first inning was ending.
That's when my son saw the mannequin just inside the PawSox team store.
"What's that?" he asked, pointing at it.
"Oh great," I thought.
We walked in the store so my son could ask the mannequin who she was. When no reply came, he got frustrated.
"Why not talking to me?" he asked, grabbing her hand.
We chatted for a while longer, Wes demanding answers and the mannequin just staring off into space.
I finally convinced him that it was time to go up the stairs. We reached the first landing and a security guard handed us a foul ball he had snagged. I thought we'd reached a turning point. My son just shrugged when I showed it to him and turned to inspect the railings.
We got about halfway up the next flight of stairs when Wes plopped himself down. He was tired and ready for a break. He eventually asked if I'd carry him and I obliged, not for any other reason than I wanted to get to our seats.
"I'm hungry," said my son. "Can we get french fries?"
I asked the first person I saw with fries where he'd purchased them and headed off in that direction, all while lugging my son, snacks packed by my wife, some stuff to entertain my son in case he got bored, and a camera to capture the experience.
We got fries and a hot dog and I told Wes he'd have to walk. He sighed, but agreed that it was fair since I was carrying his food.
By the time we got to our seats, we were already in the third inning and the Bisons were scoring their third run to take a 3-1 lead.
"Look buddy!" I said. My son just wanted food.
Pawtucket School Committee member Alan Tenreiro and his family happened to be in the seats next to ours so we exchanged pleasantries.
Alan and his wife, Lisa, informed me that they had taken their son to a game for the first time when he turned 3. They only made it through about three innings.
The french fries helped. In between inspecting the people and seats around him, Wes starting paying attention to the action, clapping when he heard the crowd cheer.
This is what it's about, I thought.
But Wes still wouldn't give up the idea of playing baseball himself.
I let him use the replica PawSox bat to tap on the ball as I held it firmly in my hand. He was amused for about eight seconds.
Will Middlebrooks, who was on a rehab assignment with the PawSox, hit a rocket that was caught in center field.
"Wow, did you see Middlebrooks?" I asked.
Wes perked up.
"Ooh, I love that name, 'Mubrooks,'" he shouted, sitting up straighter and clapping.
We were into the fourth inning when Wes turned toward me, ketchup on his face, and started wiping his hand on my shirt.
"You know that I love you, right?" he asked.
"Yea buddy, I love you too," I replied, not caring at all that he was using me for a napkin.
"I love my french fries," he said.
At some point, I forget which inning, I saw Wes lurch forward and topple on the boy in front of him, clutching the sides of the kid's head in both hands. After getting over the initial fright, the boy said he was OK and assured my son that there were no hard feelings. Wes told me he was just trying to touch the ground with his feet like all the big people.
The Tenreiros were really helpful.
They talked to Wes often and thanked him when he shared his replica bat with them. What wasn't helpful was when their daughter came back with foam fingers and a foam headdress. Wes immediately wanted something made out of foam so we went to get one of those foam paws that the kid in front of us was waving.
We got back in time to see Shane Victorino come up to bat and cheered again. By the fifth inning, Wes decided he was tired again and asked me to hold him. I told him I'd get him some chocolate ice cream.
"This is love," my son told me between bites of ice cream.
The ice cream bought us another inning. One of the few highlights we actually saw was when Alex Hassan tied the game with a home run as we were exiting McCoy in the sixth.
We finally got back to the car and my son started chattering. He didn't stop the whole way home, saying how much he loved everything and thanking me over and over for taking him.
I would learn later that the game we were at was a pretty good one. There was a dust-up during that fifth-inning ice cream run after Esmil Rogers, the guy who broke Middlebrooks' wrist with a pitch in 2012, hit the third-baseman again. Knuckleballer Steven Wright pitched eight strong innings and Dan Butler hit a game-winning home run in the seventh. I had been so busy juggling my son, food, and replica bats, I didn't even know it was Wright who was pitching.
As you can imagine, the final score in this one mattered little to me. One day, looking back at July 18, 2014, all I'll remember are the best moments with my son.