Today, February 12th, I spent the better part of the day celebrating my two youngest sons fourth birthday. We had a small cake after dinner, Saturday is their party thus the small cake. We made a trip to Wal-Mart to purchase their new bicycles, to Nicky it is his motorcycle. Thanks Ga-Ga Goodwrench for the funding for the new wheels.
We also went to their favorite restaurant for lunch, a really nice Scottish restaurant. You may have heard of it, a place called McDonalds. I am still trying to digest that greased hockey puck they call a hamburger.
Today was a good day. This week is a good week, with pitchers and catchers reporting on Friday and Nicky and Alex celebrating their fourth birthday in typical four year old fashion.
Looking back on today, I started reflecting on the last four years. I have been very fortunate to have three healthy sons, even though two of them have been diagnosed with forms of autism, I am thankful they are who they are.
Over the last four years I have been lucky enough to celebrate two Super Bowl Championships for my hometown Steelers with my three sons and beautiful wife. I sometimes wonder if she needs stronger lenses in her glasses since she still finds me attractive.
I have also been able to enjoy seeing my hometown Penguins make it to a Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose to my dear wife’s hometown Red Wings. What the hell is a Red Wing anyhow? Why would a team name themselves after a smelly work boot?
A couple years ago I was lucky enough to be able to take my oldest son, T.J., to PNC Park to see the Pirates with his papaw. We had good seats on the lower level behind home plate, about 10 rows from the back row. We showed up early enough to walk around PNC Park with our Bob Walk Bobble Heads in tow. This was the first trip for any of us to PNC Park, living in Iowa limits my chances to make it to games as often as I wish.
That day will always be one of my fondest memories of the Pirates, it even outshines getting to watch the ‘79 series in person as a eight year old with my dad, because I could share this game with my son.
I still vividly remember arriving in Pittsburgh, coming in from the south, and my sons eyes lighting up as we saw downtown. Being an Oswald fan at the time, he referred to it as “Big City”. After we found a parking garage and started the walk to PNC, T.J. was excited to see “Big City” had a McDonalds.
T.J. nearly fell over trying to see the tops of the “big buildings” and nearly collapsed from excitement when he saw a crane downtown in the process of raising girders into position for the workers on one of the buildings. He has always loved big trucks and tractors, they don’t get much bigger than that crane.
We took a few pictures on the way to PNC, one of T.J. standing on the sidewalk across the river from PNC. His eyes were wide with excitement and thrilled to be able to walk over a bridge rather than ride in a car across.
That excitement soon waned as his little legs got tired half way across and Dada had to carry him the rest of the way. Just writing that memory down sends a sudden twang into my lower back.
We watched the players warming up and the grounds crew make their final preparations before the National Anthem.
After the managers exchanged score cards, it was time for the most memorable words one can ever hear. “Can we go home now?”
Well, like a good Pirate fan, he toughed out the first three innings only asking, “Can we leave yet?” a few dozen times between each pitch.
I wanted to make it to the third inning, so when we started to walk through the park, we could at least give our support to the Pirates Fans For Change walkout that day.
We walked out to left field and visited the souvenir shop, explored the stadium, stopping periodically so dada could see some of the game. From left field, after buying a wooden Pirates baseball bat pen and a few baseballs of the severely overpriced kind and a Pirates matchbox truck of the severely overpriced kind, we saw Adam LaRoche send a ball into the right-centerfield stands giving the Pirates the lead. T.J. was extremely pleased with the fireworks display after the ball landed.
When we returned to our seats to check on papaw, my favorite reliever of the decade, Masumi Kuwata, was coming into the game. He inherited a bit of a pickle, bases loaded. I remember seeing him for the true legend he is in Japan as he masterfully worked his way out of the jam and kept the Pirates in the lead. I often wonder what it would have been like to see him pitch in his prime. That one inning, I think he relived his prime in front of our very eyes.
For T.J., his first game was one to remember for more than the play area in right field, the Pirates actually won that game.
I wrote much more on that game than I cared to, but something about memories can come rushing back and makes for easy story telling. Regardless, I wrote the occurrences of the game from memory, there aren’t too many games in the last 16 years that can be recalled so easily, even if some of it was out of order.
The point of the flashback is simply reliving a moment and realizing exactly what it is about baseball I love. The entire experience that three generations can share together, when the youngest generation isn’t begging to go home. I look forward to the day I can take Nicky and Alex to their first game at PNC.
Pittsburgh sports is part of my family and my children are also embracing the teams from a distance. Baseball will always hold a special spot in my heart, just as the Pirates do.
I hope someday soon I can enjoy a playoff run with my three sons. I want to take all three to a game sometime soon. I want them to remember the games the way I do. I know T.J. is craving going to a baseball game again, he wants to play tee ball this year as he told me today. I want all three to look forward to sharing baseball with dada and, God willing, with their children someday.
Most importantly, I want them to get excited about spring training, the day pitchers and catchers report. I want them to know the Pirates as a winning franchise not the butt of punch lines on every late night sport show.
Pitchers and catchers are ready to report Friday, what is now today as I write this later at night, and I am excited for it.
What a great couple days.
I will be walking in the MDA Stride and Ride locally. Please sponsor me in my Stride and Ride Walk for MDA at https://www.joinmda.org/srcoralvilleia09/dharr18. Every dollar is appreciated.