Baseball is the best present I’ve ever received. It transcends time and space, and it’s been part of my life since I was born.
The earliest picture I have with my father’s family is from our annual picnic. I was barely 2, the 7th of 8 cousins, and not aware that the aunts, uncles and cousins behind me had just finished a rousing game of ball. That scene would repeat itself for more than 30 years at family picnics, and even now, the conversation always turns to baseball at family gatherings. The game unites us all.
My father and his 4 brothers grew up in San Francisco. Their offspring heard stories about the Seals of the Pacific Coast League, the DiMaggio brothers, and Lefty O’Doul. They taught us how to play, using whatever equipment we had. My brother and I had an old, gray, weatherbeaten bat with no markings that was smooth as a baby’s skin from years of use. We never had a ‘real’ baseball, so we used an old tennis ball that could really travel down the block if hit just right.
We played in the backyard, the park, and the street. My brother got to play Little League but didn’t like it very much, and I soooo wished that I could take his place. Girls wouldn’t be allowed on teams for a few more years.
Baseball brought my friends and cousins together because everyone played. We learned to problem solve — Where can we play? What about bases — the manhole cover, tree stump, street lamp, and fire hydrant? Who has a ball? We learned fairness, communication and teamwork without adult intervention. We figured things out ourselves, learning important life skills along the way.
Our baseball lives changed in 1958 when the Giants came out West. I formed a deep bond with my father over baseball, a gift I’ll always be grateful for. I listened to night games on my transistor radio, and ran downstairs in the morning to excitedly discuss the game with Dad. I learned statistics and game strategy, but mostly got to spend time with him.
We only went to 2 professional games as a family, one each at Seals Stadium and Candlestick. In 1978, the year my father died, I started going with friends. I think of him often when I’m at the park, and appreciate the gifts he gave me of his patience and love.
Years later, my mother was my baseball buddy. She’d always ask “What should we eat?” and the answer was consistent: a Polish and a beer. The games gave us a chance to talk about things that were difficult at other times. I was finally able to explain why and how living overseas had changed me, and was so important. She discussed difficulties with her husband, and told me about her life as a child. I told her I’d forgiven her for never giving me a baseball glove. We grew to understand each other better while at the ballpark.
When Mom passed away in January 2010, I know that her heavenly intervention helped win the trophy that year. I wish both of my parents had been there to celebrate in person. I carry them with me to games and held their picture when I posed for a shot with the 2010 trophy.
But time moves on, and baseball continues. I’ve developed an increasingly important Giants community that has thrived and grown. The fans sitting near me are now good friends. We keep in touch when the team is out of town, inform each other when we won’t be at games, and celebrate wins and losses with emotion and passion. We get together during the off season to plan my favorite tradition: the reading of the Field of Dreams quote at noon on Opening Day. It starts the season off right.
For the last 3 years, I’ve been able to give the gift of baseball back to my community through the Junior Giants, an amazing program for youth. I coordinate a league and get to pass on my passion for baseball and the Giants to the kids we serve. Some have never played before. They gain character development through baseball, and I see that same passion for baseball that I have, growing in them.
Larry Baer, Giants CEO, understands the sense of family and community that a team like the Giants, and the game of baseball, can provide. They’ve built a team with men of character who play the game with integrity, both on and off the field. The organization is an ongoing gift that I will always treasure.
Thank you, baseball, for the gifts you’ve given me throughout my life. Thank you, Giants, for being a great example of that gift.