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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Filling MLB's void with what else...Baseball

NOTE: It's been a long while since I posted here directly or wrote anything on the old web for that matter. I certainly have no plans to cover Yankees games like I used to (well, no one is right now), but more likely this will become a random collection of baseball talk, perspectives of a small business owner and some reminiscing, gut checks and forward-thinking about being a father. I'll start with a mix of it all:

An empty Yankee Stadium as I saw it
one night after covering a game.
Last July, I went from being paid to write about baseball to devoting limited attention to the sport as my wife and I opened a franchise business.

The baseball vacancy was easily filled with the demands of prepping for the grand opening in late August and then building our client base. After getting off to a fine start, our business was temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions in mid-March. Problem is, Major League Baseball is not there to reciprocate filling the void.

Enter my sons.

My boys, who are going on 12 and 14 years old (22 and 24 if you ask them), digest baseball much like I remember as a teenager. Unfortunately, instead of engaging with them about the daily news surrounding the Yankees, box scores, leaderboards, favorite players on other teams and our fantasy baseball squads, we talk about whether there will be a season at all.

Happily, not all is lost.

This winter/spring, my younger son was off to a great start with his 11u travel baseball team. His natural abilities  teamed with plenty of practice  have begun to bubble up into promise. Sadly, his last interaction with his team was over two full months ago. The moment practices and games were cancelled, he and I made a pact to practice together on a mostly daily basis, so he would be fresh when the ability to train with his club returned. We haven’t stopped and thankfully neither has his development. I felt quite good about this, but there was still a vacancy that I was not quite aware needed to be filled.

My older son was in the midst of his second season running track for his middle school team before COVID-19 took hold. As practices ended and meets were cancelled one by one, he continued to train daily. I worked with him often in an effort to help track his progress, but I could not take the same the hands on approach I could with his brother. Despite no true instruction, my speedster improved his time in the 100 meter sprint by over half a second in the six weeks from his final structured practice and what would have been the state meet. He was proud of himself, as were my wife and I of him. Yet, there was something missing for him.

Thankfully, he recently made it a point to let me know that he wanted to be a part of the baseball drills. I realize now that I had inadvertently created a hole for my eldest. I was stressing sprint training when he was missing some baseball time with me; maybe even the enjoyment of a true connection was something my sometimes withdrawn teenager craved.

Despite the intensity levels varying and the importance of end results differing, I'm grateful for the time I have made to instruct the boys. It's been fun to work with them individually and together. Plus, they allow me to get my licks in with the bat (the feel of the well-struck ball never grows old) and my rubber arm feels great!

Above all, the shared experience is one I hope they'll remember when they look back on what can easily be described as one of the strangest times we've experienced. If professional baseball does not return in the United States in 2020, know full well my boys and I are keeping it alive in our quarantined section of the country.