During my first visit to the bustling hospital after my son was born, I bounded into the room and proudly planted a tiny Red Sox cap on my newborn’s head. When my daughter joined our clan, her first piece of clothing was a sweatshirt emblazoned with the logo of the only team our family had pledged allegiance to for the past two generations.
A few years later, on our first trip to Boston together, my son screamed with excitement from his booster seat as he spied the ballpark from the highway while clutching his colorful crayon-rendered poster of David Ortiz in his tiny hands. Dodging excited fans along Yawkey Way before the game, we nodded at each other, smiled and breathed in the smells of our favorite summer pastime. Our baseball world felt complete.
Then one day, in third grade, he rushed through the door after school, announcing, “Dad, I don’t like the Red Sox anymore, I’m a Yankees fan now.” Coming from a family that called Fenway Park home, I felt like I’d been slammed by a 99 mile-per-hour beanball. I wondered how my son’s new mind-set had happened. Was it because of peer pressure, or a sports defect he may have inherited from my wife’s gene pool? Whatever the reason, I needed to figure out how to handle this family crisis.
Living in central Connecticut, midway between Boston and New York, we were directly over the fault line separating the Red Sox and Yankees empires. Our neighborhood fan base was made up of equal parts Beantown and Big Apple.
Staying calm, I decided to nurture his curiosity, to wait and see where this went. That summer, I booked a couple of seats on a bus trip to the Bronx. Walking down River Avenue to the old Yankee Stadium, litter swirling all around us, the pregame pandemonium included the clatter of street vendors and shop owners hawking snacks and baseball memorabilia drowned out only by the trains rattling above 161st street. “Dad, I want that A-Rod shirt,” he said, as we passed one shop. Feeling tiny beads of sweat forming on my wrinkled brow, I steered him toward shirts of other role models. Walking out toward the coliseum-like stadium, he beamed with pride wearing his crisp, new Derek Jeter jersey. I wore my UConn T-shirt to mask my secret devotion while in enemy territory.
During the next couple of seasons, my son, daughter, wife and I traveled to countless games, and learned more about our beloved sport. We began to understand the game from different perspectives, prompting spirited debates and talk of baseball strategy. Most of all, these trips kept our family tight.
Over time, we became regulars on this annual bus trip to the Bronx, and, to my surprise, a new baseball tradition was born. It never occurred to me that something great could happen because of my son’s sudden shift in loyalty. I did this because he wanted to, and instead of coming between us, it drew us closer.
We’re now a two-team family, splitting our time between Boston and New York. Wherever we are, the passion for the game reigns supreme, and is mutual. It’s funny; I always thought I had the baseball piece figured out, only to realize I didn’t.
Although I’m still a true Boston fan, and silently cheer for the BoSox when they play the Yankees, I’ve come to relish every baseball excursion. And now, almost two decades later, we’re still at it. Jason Varitek and Mariano Rivera may be gone, but our family still radiates the passion.
The good news is everyone is happy and looks forward to our next game together. Hopefully, there will be no more curveballs. Best of all, our chances of celebrating a playoff or World Series win are better than ever.
Stan Gornicz is a corporate writer and editor in Connecticut.
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