If you had asked me several years ago who was the most valuable player on a baseball team, you would have gotten a long and, believe me, fascinating explanation (complete with graphs and charts) of why long relievers are the most important. Recent events have begun to change my mind. Last week, Tony invited all four of us to a Cardinals game. It was a beautiful day, and while I was skeptical that the girls would behave well enough to last the whole game, we actually stayed longer than most. Kate toddled around, searching out whichever of us had a mini teddy graham for her. She also alternated between snuggling with Tony and crying at the man sitting behind us. Clara took in the enormity of the stadium, looking wide-eyed at the signs, the (championship!) flags, the players, and the fans. But then someone caught her eye, and she was hooked. I speak of the most valuable member of a baseball team...
In St. Louis, the mascot is Fredbird, a goofy oversized cardinal with a predilection for wrapping his beak around little kids' heads. Between innings in Busch Stadium, Fredbird stands on the dugout and uses a giant slingshot to hurl t-shirts into the masses. Megan made sure to point him out to Clara, and thereafter Clara looked around only for Fredbird. Though we didn't actually see him face to face, you would have thought that he was sitting right next to us the way Clara talked about him on the way home. A couple of days later, Clara looked up at me and said, "Daddy, I want to go to the ballpark." I told her I had never loved her more than that instant.
You see, I like baseball. A lot. I watch more baseball on TV than all other programs combined. If I'm lucky, the Cardinals game ends about the time the Giants game begins. Both girls can say, "go Cards!" with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm. I blew my top when a close friend had the temerity to root for Detroit in last year's World Series. My brother and I have been to almost every park out there. So for my daughter to show some interest in something I have great interest in makes me very happy.
In order to foster her interest, to work the long con toward a true interest in baseball, I have to work Fredbird into the equation quite a bit. As she sits on my lap while we watch baseball (she sits on my lap while we watch anything,) I ask her if she sees Fredbird. I can tell she is looking everywhere in the background for him. Luckily, the network knows how valuable our mascot is and shows him quite a bit, much to the pleasure of my daughter, and, by extention, her father. Fredbird, you earned your World Series ring.
She doesn't sit and watch a whole game, of course, but on more than one occasion I've given her a choice of TV progams like Dora or Diego, and she answered, "baseball." God bless her. Often, after she has finished her dinner and I'm trying to herd her and her sister upstairs to get ready for bed, Clara looks up at me with her big, beautiful eyes and says, "I want to watch baseball." I say, "OK sweetie, but only one inning." She runs into the living room.
I think I might be the one being conned.