Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Summer, baseball and my father

As I am waiting on some genealogy information to arrive and trying to get caught up at work after holidays, I thought that I would deviate slightly in the Ball family narrative to talk about baseball. Not exactly the dead ancestor hunt, but something that is a continual reminder of my childhood and my Dad.

This weekend our local baseball associations are playing a 'vintage' baseball game, in honour of my community's cityhood centennial. As I was looking through our collection of baseball photos at work, I was reminded of my Dad and the game he loved.

Dad went to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, on a sports scholarship in the early 1950's and played varsity baseball and basketball. After graduating, he was signed to the Boston Red Sox and played minor baseball in Lloydminster AB (and later Saskatoon, among other places on the Prairies) in the Western Canada Baseball League. He had dreams of making the major leagues until he developed bone deposits in his elbow, which effectively ended his career as a pitcher. He tried several times to come back, but the elbow never healed properly and he had to hang up the cleats and glove and start a new life.

While we lived in Montreal, Dad was the pitching coach of the Dorval Cougars, a team of young men in their late teens. I remember how he loved talking, playing and living baseball, always watching and encouraging the young players. He used to take us to practices and put my sister and I to work tracking down foul and stray baseballs, guarding the water and other tasks. I think that I learned a certain patience for watching the game and absorbed the language, movement and nuances of baseball. Dad managed to injure his elbow again while doing pitching demonstrations, but you could tell that he always wanted to get back out there and pitch again, no matter how much it hurt.

When I watch baseball, I feel like I'm closer to Dad - knowing that he loved the game. Baseball evokes a certain nostalgia for me - of clean-cut young men, seasoned coaches and the warm and sunny days of summer (although, I do remember a few cold and snowy season openers of the Toronto Blue Jays in their early days at Exhibition Place...). Summer always rekindles my love of the game and memories of Dad.


No comments: