clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Goodnight baseball

A little father-to-daughter recap.

still life with wiffleball
still life with wiffleball
Patrick Dubuque

Dear Sylvie,

Tonight the Seattle Mariners lost a baseball game. It’s the 206th time it’s happened in your 2.25 years, as omnipresent as goldfish crackers and Daniel Tiger. You didn’t notice. Aaron Goldsmith whispered from the cell phone in my pocket while you and I moved from room to room living our typical toddler existence: sipping air out of plastic teacups, organizing blocks by color, pretending to be scared of monsters. As we played I had to split my attention, tracking the events. Baseball, with all of its artifice and frustration and tension, passes through you like radio waves.

You ate ice cream, basking in victorious potty training, as Iwakuma struck out five of the first six batters. You stuck stickers on a pumpkin while the Athletics scored their first run on the fourth; granted, the play, two throwing errors on a failed pitchout, was a jumble on the radio. You drew hieroglyphics on the shower walls with bath crayons when Brad Miller, who debuted while your mother was in labor, flipped a waist-high pitch to the opposite field. You missed the game-losing home run, though; a badly-located Farquhar fastball half a foot above the zone, dead center. You were in bed, as we read a children’s version of Who’s On First, calling out "Third base!" You don’t know what third base is, yet. You laughed because the cartoon rabbit with the funny voice was doing his slow boil.

Baseball is very nearly over. Very soon you will understand this: not for the game itself, but the turning of the seasons, which come so painfully slowly in youth, then so easily later. Someday perhaps its beginning and end will become your solstices. For now, it’s a word that you shout with excitement probably because you sense my excitement, feed on its colorless energy. It’s a plastic ball on a tee, hazy potential energy, waiting to be hit and laughed at and chased after. The ball always can be put back. You don’t understand the worst, and the best, thing about baseball: having to wait.

It seems strange to me that anyone could ever get from your state, untouched by these external forces, to mine. I can imagine you being a baseball fan someday, watching games after your little brother has gone to bed, laying on the right field hill during a summer AquaSox game. But I can’t imagine how you get there, how you or anyone would willingly give up their own agency, submit their happiness to the whim of fate. Today the Mariners lost a baseball game. Tomorrow the Mariners will lose a baseball game.

Someday you’ll grow up, I know. People keep telling me this. You’ll learn to lie and sacrifice and to create and to hope for great things to happen. You’ll understand how small you are, how chaotic and unfeeling the world is as it swirls around you. When you do, my baseball will be there, acting as a distraction from the void. But for now, I think I actually prefer your idea of baseball over mine, one that waits on the tee until you’re ready to hit it. One where there is no such thing as losing, no seasons to end.

I can’t do it forever, but for now I just want to protect you from the Mariners. For a little while.