THE NEWBERG REPORT — April 24, 2008
The Rangers’ season begins in May.
Max’s career in organized ball is a week away from
beginning. When it came time to choose a
name for his Junior T-ball team, there was no question. And when it came time to decide what number would
adorn his Rangers jersey, of course, it was 10.
Three years and eight months ago, Texas won the first seven Ranger games of Max’s
life. He wasn’t yet walking the one time
since then that the club had a longer win streak than that one. The Rangers are 21 games under .500 in his lifetime
(though worse during Erica’s), have never finished higher than third in the
division, and have arguably gotten worse each season.
And he couldn’t be more proud to be a Ranger.
I take lessons from Max.
I know it would have been more difficult for me to be as proud as I am,
in times like this, to be a fan of this team, before we had kids. There are so many things I have more of because
of Erica and Max, among which is perspective.
For my kids, especially Max, what matters is the motion,
the pitch, the swing, the contact. The catch,
the throw, the slide.
Not the standings.
I’m not suggesting that I don’t care how this team fares,
how it competes. It means everything to
But my kids have taught me to see things, when it helps,
through their own eyes, and lately that’s been a real baseball blessing. For Max, every game is an event, an eagerly anticipated
event, another episode starring his heroes.
And you never know the ending.
I don’t really know what it must feel like to be Michele and
Bill Beavan right now, as their son Blake is on the verge of pitching in his
first professional game that counts. Or how
Chuck Morgan must feel now that his son, Kelley Gulledge, has fought his way
back to the minor leagues, sharing catching duties for AA Jacksonville in the Dodgers
system after toiling in the independent leagues since 2003.
But I have an idea, because Max is about to be on a team
for the first time.
Soon playing on a team will probably be as natural a part
of his routine as his daily insistence, when I leave for work, that when I get
back home we need to play baseball in the yard, as his daily excitement when I tell
him the game is about to start on the TV and radio, as his habit of wearing a
Rangers shirt and baseball pants and a Jason Botts wristband to pre-school.
When we get in the car to head out for our first practice
this weekend, with Max in his booster seat decked out in Rangers clothes and
cap, cradling a baseball in his well-broken-in Wilson, like he’s done so many
times, he probably won’t understand that what’s in store is something new. Baseball as a team sport has essentially been
a spectator’s experience for him, until now.
To play the game, an exercise he’s been obsessed with for a couple years
now, has rarely involved more than two or three others. That’s all about to change.
The stated purpose of the league we’re joining is “to
provide a fun, non-competitive environment for developing fundamental baseball
skills. Players should receive positive
reinforcement and be encouraged to do their best. Standings, scores, and outs are not recorded.”
I wish the standings weren’t recorded for the big club
right now, or that the real Rangers’ season, like the T-ball version, wasn’t
set to kick off until May.
But Max’s excitement right now over the idea of getting to
play baseball games while wearing a Texas Rangers uniform labeled with Michael Young’s
number reminds me of what it was like 30 years ago for me, when the game, and
not so much the win-loss record, was the thing.
I can’t wait for the experience of watching Max become
part of a team, and seeing him grow in that environment. The added bonus that it will be a team whose caps
will say “T” and whose jerseys will say “Rangers” will make
it exponentially more special for him, which helps underscore for me the unshakable
fact that to love a team means that while frustrating streaks of bad results can
be grueling to fight through, it’s gonna be so stinkin’ great for those of us
sticking this out when things do eventually turn themselves around.