Let’s be clear right off the bat: his team did not win the final championship game. They will not bring home trophies, nor ride the float in the July 4th parade.
It was not the blowout they suffered in Game 1; they had their moments. The crowd’s favorite was a three-run homer by Alyssa (the league’s only girl, who has earned the nickname Wonder Woman, her proud grandmother informed me). Her over-the-fence shot put the Orioles up 6-3. It might have been the winning hit of the season, were it not for the rest of the game. Final score, 10-7 Tigers. So close they could taste it, but just out of reach. Damn.
There were tears of disappointment, replaced by talk of the future: plans to throw candy at the victorious Tigers as they rode in the parade.
Closing Ceremonies were held Saturday morning. It’s campy, maybe. Over the top, perhaps. But I am a fan of rituals. They let us mark beginnings, ends, and transitions. They let us stop to acknowledge both glory and sorrow. Speeches were made, champions declared, applause offered.
And there was Good Sportsmanship awards, to two kids per 11-person team, including my son.
I suspect it may feel like a consolation prize to a kid who would rather have been selected an All-Star. And to a friend who also played in the league, it was an achievement worthy of mockery. (Note that said “friend” didn’t receive this recognition; it took a month’s-worth of tongue-biting for me not to point that out to the friend.) But to the kid’s parents it is the accomplishment. Proud? You bet.
But — confession time — I am also a bit mystified. Don’t misunderstand — he deserves it, but so do many members of his team, and yet his peers chose him for the third or fourth season by my count (fifth by his). Each time a different set of teammates votes, and he is selected. What gives? What happens in the dugout out of my earshot? He’s as normal as the next kid, griping about missed plays or “bad calls” in the privacy of home.
But hey, I give him his due. I praised the heck out of him, and he told me to stop.
After the Closing Ceremonies, the All-Stars took to the field, and I felt his disappointment in my skin. I overempathize with my firstborn. I know it, but I can’t help it. It’s physiological. I have to consciously coach myself to fight against this phenomenon to have the healthy distance to parent. So I counseled myself, “Stop longing for what’s not. Remember that when one door closes, another opens.”
So as the All-Stars suited up, prideful in their anointment as the cream of the crop, my kid had to find something else to do. Would he watch his friends play? Would he ask to go home? What’s it gonna be, I asked.
He asked his little brother, the self-appointed Oriole Mascot, “Do you want to practice fielding?”
“Yes!” was his eager reply. It wouldn’t last long. The little brother would get frustrated and give up, and my Good Sportsman would go watch his friends play the last game of the season.
But for a fleeting moment, as the All-Star game began in one corner of the Field of Dreams, I stepped back and watched my older son finally playing the game he loves with the kid who means everything to him and who sometimes drives him nuts. I said a silent a prayer of gratitude for the door that closed, allowing this momentary, beats-everything-else door to open.