This year, I'll be spending my Mother's Day watching baseball. Not the Pirates or another MLB team. My son's 10U West Hills Baseball team. This is how I spent my last Mother's Day. It's likely how I'll spend my Mother's Day for years to come.
I hope you don't think I'm complaining. Because there's no place I'd rather be.
See, my son plays travel ball. I'm sure you've heard of it, for this phrase - "travel ball" - transcends age, sex, race, and sport. It applies to baseball, softball, soccer, and a myriad of others. It is the fraternal twin of phrases like "competitive cheer" and "competitive dance," different on the surface but sharing the same DNA.
Travel ball is consuming. Travel ball is expensive. And non-travel-ball people think us travel ballers are crazy.
But we're not. (Well, at least most of us aren't.) What we are is in love.
We're in love with our kids
...and we love watching them play. We are there to see them grow and mature and change. We watch them do amazing things, and we are witness to their stumbles. We are proud when they win gracefully, and even prouder when they lose with dignity. We know they are learning to be better players but also better people, as they are challenged to treat their coaches, their teammates, their competitors, and their game with class and respect.
We're in love with our teams
...the team on the field and the team in the bleachers. We cheer and worry and celebrate together. We rejoice over the end of a Pittsburgh winter, reveling in those glorious spring moments - and cowering together under blankets and umbrellas when Western PA weather lets us down. We celebrate each other's triumphs and share each other's trials, on the field and off. We make our own "Sunday services" as we hope to finish the weekend with a trophy. And we wonder what in the world we did with our time before travel ball came along.
We're in love with the game
...and for some of us, that's a total surprise. I played many sports growing up, softball included. But it was never my favorite. And I never had more than a passing interest in the Pirates (through my parents' stories of Maz, Clemente, and Forbes Field gave the team a nostalgic, wistful glow in my mind). Then my son decided to love baseball. And through his eyes, I saw the magic of the game. As he listens to the Pirates on his radio as he drifts off to sleep at night, I remember my brother doing the same as a kid. As he talks statistics and the latest game with my father-in-law, I see a continuing tradition. And I am grateful that his contagious passion opened me up to being a fan of this game.
I know you likely don't really understand your "travel ball" friends and family members and why they disappear every weekend during their seasons of choice. But I hope you know now that we do it for love. That's what it translates to for me and so many others here in Pittsburgh and beyond.
And it's why the only diamond I really want on Mother's Day is the one I'll sit beside and cheer.