My seventeen-year-old daughter has just begun her Senior year in high school, so for the past three years, our lives have been consumed by countless track meets (and corresponding pasta parties), college visits all over the Mid-Atlantic, and numerous meetings, appointments, and activities related to my daughter's academics, athletics, or extracurricular activities. All along the way, my thirteen-year-old son has tagged along (many times begrudgingly) and served as photographer, stopwatch operator, bag carrier, or whatever "other tasks as assigned" have been thrown at him. But he's been a pretty good sport (especially since each college visit came with either dinner at Panera, a visit to the college ice cream shop, or a stay in a hotel with a pool). Constantly in his sister's shadow, he still manages to maintain a sense of humor while my husband and I try to accommodate his concert band schedule around everything else going on in our busy lives.
One thing that has helped our bond is baseball. He has been watching baseball with his mother since he was in utero, and despite "retiring" from Little League over a year ago, he still enjoys watching and following the sport with his overenthusiastic and highly competitive mother. He went trick or treating dressed as Jayson Werth one year (complete with full bearded mask), has a respectable baseball card collection, and owns a wide assortment of Washington Nationals apparel. He doesn't just watch baseball because it's what's on TV; he actually sits down, asks questions, and follows certain players' statistics (and admittedly, he's learning how to heckle. Who could be teaching him that?).
One recent Sunday, my son, husband, and I traveled to Washington, DC to catch a game at Nationals Park. The Nats were playing the Mets, the weather was perfect for an evening game, and we scored great seats for a decent price (just a few rows behind the Nats' dugout). It was game two of a day/night doubleheader - a make-up of a previously rained-out game from July. Tanner Roark was on the mound, and despite many of their big players being on the Disabled List (Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Trea Turner...), it was refreshing to see a lot of the younger guys playing so well. The Nationals won the game 5-4, but that's not why we had such an unforgettable time.
There was the walk from the parking lot to the park. The area around Nationals Park has really undergone a tremendous development, and there were new outdoor dining venues, numerous street vendors, and many sights that were not there since my husband and I were last there a year ago. My son was all over the fact that you could buy a bag of peanuts right outside the park for less than half of what they charge you inside (yes - we bought one to share). He has always enjoyed people-watching, so standing in line waiting for the gates to open was entertaining for him (he's not one of those teenagers who is constantly on his phone - he actually keeps himself occupied looking at his surroundings and making good observations and occasional snarky comments. He is my son, after all).
Once inside the ballpark, we perused the gift shop, where of course my son wanted one of everything (actually, so did I!) but was horrified at the prices. Now he knows that we're not willing to pay $113 for a jersey; time to revise your Christmas list, kid! We walked around a bit, showing him things he had never noticed before (his last two visits to Nationals Park earlier this summer were with "boring people," according to him) and then found our seats. My son was AMAZED at how good our seats were - his other visits came with outfield seats located in a section where you couldn't see the big scoreboard. So he marveled at the wealth of information shown on the big screen - lineups, statistics, highlight videos...
When the game began, he put on his "focused" face. This kid can get so focused sometimes that I swear he could perform microsurgery on a human brain while wearing headsets so he could direct "Sully" Sullenberger to safely land his airplane on the Hudson River. He intently watched every pitch, every swing, every catch, only getting up once to get some ice cream. We laughed at the drunk people behind us, at the frat boys in front of us who kept buying beer after beer (despite my son insisting that they did not look twenty-one), and at the Racing Presidents in the middle of the fourth inning. One drunk guy had us laughing so hard, I don't think I had ever heard my son laugh so non-stop.
When I asked him on our way home what his favorite part of the evening was, he said he liked feeling like a real fan; not just a spectator. Aw! I don't know if he'll remember this moment as fondly as me, but spending those few hours on a beautiful Sunday evening with my not-so-little-anymore boy taking in a game of baseball was a definite highlight for his mother.