Baseball, My Zen
Growing up, I was a mama’s girl. My dad and I, however, never had too much in common. His interests in current events and politics were puzzling to me, and his job as a mechanic for the National Guard was, I thought, boring. Because of this, when it was time to learn how to drive, I insisted my mom teach me. She was leery because she knew I was afraid of driving, and she thought my dad might be better at calming my fears. Despite her objections, I insisted she take me, and one day when we were leaving the grocery store, she asked me to drive the mile and a half home. I would like to think I did fine, but in reality, I made it one city block before I started crying hysterically because another car had crept up behind me.
After I panicked behind the wheel of my parents’ early nineties Buick Skylark, my mom vowed she would never take me driving again. It took months of coaxing from my dad, but I eventually agreed to go for a short drive with him. I was sweaty. I was nervous. And, after he took me to a cemetery to practice right and left turns, I was convinced. My dad was crazy; how could I possibly be his daughter? A cemetery?! What if I hit a gravestone?
After a few times, however, I started to feel more comfortable. I no longer asked my dad to back the car out of the driveway before I took control. We would drive around our tiny town—the school on the east and the American Legion baseball fields on the west—listening to the MN Twins baseball. I had always enjoyed watching baseball, but it was here I realized that baseball was more than just something to watch when nothing else was on. Baseball was my Zen. It was calming.
During this time, I also learned that my dad and I were not so completely different. Baseball was the one thing my dad and I had in common. My dad never missed a game and could rattle stats off with ease. I enjoyed watching, listening, and learning more about the game itself from my dad.
Sadly, my dad passed away only a year after I obtained my license. I have often felt guilty—that I treated him poorly—as I think about my sharp teenage tongue criticizing his decision to take me to a cemetery to learn how to drive. When I have these feelings, however, I am reminded of our time together, at first in the Skylark and then in my VW Jetta, my car my dad helped me purchase. We had a blast listening to baseball, and I can’t help but smile when I think about how he even entertained my crush on Pat Meares, the shortstop at the time.
Many years later, during the home opener of 2012, I was delighted when my husband and I were spotted holding a “Circle Me Bert” sign. (In Minnesota, fans create “Circle Me Bert” signs in hopes of getting circled, on TV, by Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven). When asked on air how it felt to be on TV and to share a birthday with Bert, I said it felt great. I told the great state of Minnesota what baseball meant to me—everything—and it meant everything to me because of my dad.