Dear Pittsburgh Pirates, Thank You
“There is no crying in baseball!!”
Thankfully that is 100% untrue especially if you watch a little league 6-9 year old game. Tears fall almost every time one of them strikes out. It’s not hard for a guy like me to admit to having shed a few tears last night(I swear my allergies have been killing me lately). Not because my favorite team lost, but because of what the game of baseball gave to me this year. All I can do is sit here & be thankful for the memories, I don’t care about who they sign, or trade. I don’t care that they didn’t make any moves at the deadline. What I do care about is watching my 7-year-old son Jaxon fall in love with the game.
Jaxon was adamant this winter about playing baseball, persistent even. He literally mentioned signing up to my wife & I every week for about 3-4 months straight. Jaxon stayed on top of us, he made sure to remind us to get his birth certificate & physical & all the needed paperwork. Jax was beyond excited when we went & bought his first bat, he loves that royal blue Easton. If memory serves me correctly he’s not gone a full week without taking some swings since we bought it. We signed all three of our sons up for baseball this spring, Jabari is 6 so he played tee-ball, Jax at 7 played instructional league & Jonas is 11 but played minor league. Long story short we had an issue with the original team Jonas was assigned to. Funny thing is the folks that run the organization begged us to sign him up because they needed more players. That is a story for another day but just know that the issues we had with Jonas’ original team were enough to push me to the brink of pulling my entire family out of the organization. The only thing that stopped me was Jaxon’s passion. He never wanted to miss a practice, was always eager to play even at home in the back yard. His team had some ups and downs but you could tell as the season wore on he loved every minute of it.
The Little league season ran into the MLB season but, I had every intention on making sure my family of 6 hit a game or two. It’s become more of a routine for us over the last few years. My biggest issue with getting there this season was mainly that I’m cheap. Most of the tickets we snag are from StubHub for way below face value or ones my best friend gets me. The first game I attended this season was unforgettable. My wife & I planned to go for her 32nd birthday this past May but that fell through. Unfortunately, her aunt passed away & she & her mom had to travel to North Carolina for the funeral. Being that I already bought tickets & planned this whole thing I went to the game anyway. Ended up going with some of my friends, her dad & step mom & had the greatest time ever. My section was full of high school & college kids some of whom actually were from my area. Throughout that game with the assistance of the awesomeness that is the “selfie” I connected with many of them & I’ve stayed in touch with a few. Just trying to do my best to & be a positive example for them. Basically the cool older guy who encourages them to do the right thing, keep school, family & God first.
As the MLB season chugged along my Jax made sure he remained firmly planted “in the know” always asking questions, sitting down with me to watch the Bucos. Even consistently asking me to check the score if we weren’t home or asking about how many homers Cutch & Pedro had hit thus far. My wife & I are floored at how much of the game he’s absorbed over the last 6 months. As summer came to an end I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get the entire family to a game this season. As luck would have it someone gave us tickets to the last home game of the season. We had plans to attend some picnic that my wife’s company was hosting and we could only get 4 tickets to the game. It was a no brainer that Jax & I were going, my wife decided she would come & bring our oldest Jaidon. We had an amazing time in the heat as we watched our beloved Bucos pull out an amazing 1-0 win over the Brewers (I hate the Brewers).
To sit there and just watch him take everything in was breathtaking. My little guy has found something he really loves. I get it he is 7 he’s going to change his mind about a billion times over the next few years. But to hear him talk in such a “matter of fact” way about playing baseball long-term is so amazing to me. Yes, he has told me more than once “Dad, I’m going to play for the Pirates“. Has even added “I wonder if they are going to draft me after college or before I go to Pitt“. (Hail to PITT!) I digress, so at that last home game of the regular season at PNC Park, kids were allowed to run the bases so we stayed so Jax & Jaidon join in on the fun. He was so excited to be on the same field as guys like Jay Hay (Josh Harrison) & Cutch (Andrew McCutchen). He confirmed for me again that he would eventually play for our beloved Bucos.
We continued to keep our eyes glued to the TV night after night as the season came to a close & I let him stay up late to watch the Pirates celebrate after they clinched a playoff spot. I take that back, I woke him up in the bottom of the 9th to make sure he saw the last 2 outs. He was elated & dead tired but appreciated the fact that I let him break the rules & stay up late to watch TV. I do it because I never had that chance, growing up the Pirates sucked the first game I ever went to I think they lost 10-3 to the Dodgers in 3 Rivers Stadium. That makes this all the more special to me. He doesn’t know about the struggle of 20+ losing seasons. He wasn’t here for Daryl Ward (who threw me my first & only official MLB ball after warming up in the outfield, yes I still have it) or Kevin Young. Pat Mears etc. He doesn’t know about the time they lost by 20. But he knows THIS team, he knows them well. As the season came to an end last night, my Jax never wavered, he yelled when Jay Hay got a hit late in the game like he just tied the score. He was emphatically clapping when there was 1 out & 2 on in the 8th before Mercer grounded out. He never gave up hope, until that 8th inning ended & he took off his Pirates hat, looked at me & said “Dad, I’m going to bed”. He looked defeated, I hugged him & told him Jack it’s not over you can stay up. His mood changed he put his hat back on & sat down next to me to watch the 9th.
The inevitable happened, our Bucos lost 8-0 and that was it. It all hit me, the season was over, but baseball brought my son & I closer together. It’s not about the million dollar contracts, the steroids, the home runs or the peanuts & pirogi races. It’s about the memories you make while taking in the game. This season was memorable for me because I got to watch my son fall in love with something for the very first time. I thank God that I was given the chance to be a father & I think him for giving me this season. I’m sure no one in Team Walker will forget it. Thank you Pittsburgh Pirates, you have helped me develop a greater bond with my son & for that I am forever grateful. LETS GO BUCS!!!