Growing up in the 70′s and living in the section of West Virginia sandwiched between Ohio and Pennsylvania, my crew followed Pittsburgh teams. In the 70′s, a kid’s life was mostly good when following the Pirates. Our heroes were working class guys like Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski and they delivered on and off the field.
Life brought me to the D.C. area some 20+ years ago. When I landed, D.C. was the Purgatory of baseball; hope always hinted a team could arrive, but the dream never materialized. As time passed, the dream faded and I became preoccupied with other things – like raising a son with Asperger’s Syndrome.
When your child has Autism, you continually work to close circles. This is the process of verbally and nonverbally making a connection, interacting and then completing that interaction. You do this over and over and over, looking for any sliver of progress and the slivers come in dribbles and drabs. Somedays it’s great, but often, it feels futile.
The Bean and I worked on closing circles for years and years, but still, our communication felt rote and regimented. Then, the convergence of miracles occurred. The first was baseball coming back to D.C. (OK, some consider it a miracle, some a disaster, but for me, well, read on.) The D.C. Nationals were playing in their home opener and it was a big deal in the Washington area.
On the evening of the game, I picked The Bean up from after school care. We arrived home and I expected to quietly watch the game while The Bean did his thing. We enter the house and he said “Hey dad, let’s watch the game!” It sounds simple, but it was the first time he ever said “Let’s.” In fact, it’s the first time I can remember the two of us doing anything spontaneous. (Miracle number two.) We sat in front of the tube and ate hot dogs and watched the Nats beat the Rockies. The Bean and I had a great time.
Since then, I’ve told The Bean about Clemente and the size of his heart on and off the field; about Stargell and We are Family, and how Maz hit The One that Made a Difference. Of course, he’s asked what Barry Bonds was like before steroids (skinny and pure) and the Pirates (and Nats) have been basement dwellers his whole life. Both teams still, however, hold a soft spot in my heart. (And after today, the Nats are only one game out of first place!!!) GO NATS!