Offspring Training

The New York Times

March 15, 2013

by Doug Glanville

I do not claim to know what my playing career meant in the grand scheme of baseball. All I know for sure is that I found a passion I could express on a diamond. For this I am eternally grateful. Yet after my career was over, I found myself adrift from the game. A post-retirement stasis of sorts. In a way, it also kept my new family from embracing baseball.

Still, I was present enough to remember what the approach of spring meant — the shining beginning of baseball’s domain. I used to know this by smell, by bloom, by the urge to pick up that bat as if it were called upon by the doctor tapping my knee to test my reflexes. But I no longer play. I do not have a camp to which to report, I do not have the will of an elder brother pushing me to have a catch in the snow anymore. Life has gone on: the nine innings we hope to have are speeding up, double plays are being turned and the outs are accumulating.

Then I realize that my children, who are now 4, 3 and 1, are slowing it all down. They are the visit to the mound, the 7th-inning stretch, the double switch to buy time in a game that knows no clock. They have questions about baseball. In answering them, I taste the game again from the most purified source you can find.

This is the first spring I’ve been able to sit down and watch baseball with my children, because they now have just enough patience to follow the pitcher-hitter match-up. The watching may last only two innings, or a single at-bat, but for as long as they’ll let me I can talk about good and bad pitches, explain each position and its role, describe the joy of hitting a home run. The older two get it, or at least they seem like they care to try, and they understand well enough that Daddy used to play and now he just “talks baseball.”

So I talk to them. I do my best to share the glorious time we call spring training — where everyone is getting a second chance, where teams that lost 100 games last season believe that this could be their year. It is a sensibility that I want to instill in my children. The patience it requires, the naïve optimism it inspires, the understanding of what it means when royalty like Mariano Rivera is playing his last season and the baseball gods can only shed a tear.

It mirrors the tears so many players shed when they cannot put on the uniform for spring training anymore. My kids cannot quite imagine the aimless feeling that accompanied their father, who until not so long ago had been sitting in front of a locker practically every spring he was on this earth (or so it seemed). It was unnatural, a disturbance in an internal clock that had always been set for Opening Day.

Yet in those moments when I’m passing the game on to my kids, I really can stop time. I can use the pause button to predict what Adam Eaton might do for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013. I can explain that Raul Ibanez’s ability to turn on a fastball at 40 makes their father wonder if he could still play, even if he does feel a twinge when he shovels the snow in the driveway. Baseball has a knack for being able to strip away age and make you believe you can always return to the era of your choosing.

I will continue to tell my children that this is baseball, a time machine; they are my best relief, closers in my game of life. I can tell stories of my spring trainings, from my sleepwalking roommate, to the week I hit for the cycle and also hit a grand slam, to the hard lesson of getting heat bumps when I didn’t use sunscreen in the Arizona desert. Holding hands with the game is a stroll in the park even in the rain, and it is a great example of how one can live a patient life with passion and forgiveness. Wonderful teaching points for any child.

So this season, watching with my kids, I understand that although the game isn’t about me (and never was), I can still enjoy it, even experience it, through their journey to understand and, I hope, love it. And when their apprenticeship has been completed, I can finally let go and just be a fan again.


Republished from The New York Times


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