I tell people all the time that outside of my family, my three favorite things are baseball, country music and snow. No matter where I am, what I am doing, what is going on around me, or around the world for that matter, those three things provide me comfort. Forget the snow part, for now, it’s July and it’s a distant third on the list anyway. So this summer, more than any for obvious reasons, we’ve needed a lot of baseball and country music.
Sports have always been a huge part of my life. Baseball was always my “thing” and in this crazy situation, it is our thing now. I didn’t really have a choice though, as my grandma had Johnny Bench posters in her bedroom until the day she died! The poor Big Red Machine, the boys love hearing stories about her calling them the Dead Legs once the ’70s were over. My dad still insists Pete Rose wasn’t any worse for baseball than Shoeless Joe Jackson. Just ask Ray Kinsella.
From the time I was allowed to start dressing myself (much later than 6… if any of you have seen my son Klein lately), I was always wearing either Clippers or Yankees gear in the summer, except for the short period I tried becoming a Tribe fan at a point when they appeared to actually care about their fans.
My grandma had season tickets at Cooper Stadium, 4th row down the third baseline, and we spent at least one night a week there watching the likes of future MLB All-Stars who won several Governor’s Cup Championships for Columbus… JT Snow (my favorite), Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Brad Ausmus, Jalal Leach (cannon from RF), Andy Fox, and even a few years before that some random lesser-known, young, really skinny kid that wore No. 13 before switching to No. 2 in the Show. I was there for Hideki Irabu’s much-heralded AAA debut. I got to see Daryl Strawberry hit a homerun some people swear landed in the cemetery. I once sat next to Royce Clayton during the MLB strike-shortened season in 1994, watching his brother Royal pitch in relief. It helped to have a family friend who was the Clippers manager a couple of different times in the ’80s and ’90s, and we even sat with Gene Michael and Don Zimmer one night during the same ’94 season. I have the signed baseball to prove it.
So right now, while everyone is missing pro sports, we’re missing nightly baseball games on TV as well as the opportunity to head down to Huntington Park for a game. No mid-season classic this year — that is really weird. I thought if pro sports came back by now, most of us would forget about the few months that we missed and would just be happy with inching back to old normal.
All of this is a big reason why being able to coach both boys this summer on their respective travel baseball teams has been such a much-needed outlet. And yes, we listen to country music on the way to every game (the CD by Jake Owen, Barefoot Blue Jean Night, twice this past week alone). For those of you not already aware, or anyone else who may have skimmed that last comment too quickly, yes, I said CD. I have an entire case with everything from the Top Gun and Rocky IV soundtracks, Chris Rock and Adam Sandler, to CDs that my wife Tiffanni burned for me during college for long road trips home. I also have an incredible array of country music, including oldies Alabama and George Strait.
On the way home Thursday night, we celebrated my 7U Golden Bears regular-season league and tournament championship by blaring Jason Aldean (Klein’s pick). It was our 4th win of the week and pushed our record to 16-1. At the start of our winter workouts, witnessing the amount of undeniable talent in this age group, I told each of my parents, the only thing even remotely possible of derailing this season was coaching. Well, coaching got out of the way, and these kids had a blast! After the game, I got to hand out league championship rings to each kid on our team, and we proceeded to have a spontaneous pizza party out behind the RF fence while watching the 8U game that followed. If that night didn’t remind us how badly we all need something positive to celebrate this summer, then I don’t know what would.
Teaser — I’m saving a post that digs a little deeper into the difference between growing up in a Minor League sports town (me in Columbus) vs. growing up in a Major League sports town (my kids in Columbus), which only you Ohioans from either Cincinnati or Cleveland can appreciate. Stay tuned, and be safe!