I look out my home’s back window at the leaves on the ground and one thought runs through my mind: It’s almost baseball time.
It’s an odd thing to say, I know, at the time of year when bats, gloves and balls are packed away until spring.
But we have had a family tradition at Thanksgiving, albeit with a brief history, where after stuffing ourselves with turkey and all the fixings, we head out to the lot behind us for a game with a handful of foam balls and an assortment of plastic bats. Bases are provided, with one clearly marked as home plate.
My one nephew, James, is a huge baseball fan and we typically played a game at his home on the tennis court on his birthday in September. It was the one thing he wanted to do with everyone.
When my sister’s family began coming to our house for Thanksgiving a few years ago, James wanted to hold a game afterward. We obliged. We have an open space behind us that’s actually shaped like a diamond with trees serving as the outfield.
It’s far from a regulation field, which is a good thing. Too much space between the bases means too much effort for us older folks. The tighter the space, the better the chance to actually reach base and score.
Despite the cold and encroaching darkness, we would brave the elements and play as long as we could. The tree branches usually prevent hit balls from going too far, but if you hit the gaps just right you guarantee yourself a home run.
Of course trying to field a ball in any scenario is a challenge for me unless it’s hit right at me. And even that is difficult if I have to bend over to grab it. There was a time when that came easier. In my 50s, that time has passed.
Everyone took whatever position they wanted except for my sister, Kathleen. She was always most comfortable pitching. I’m not sure why. She wasn’t the most athletic person and perhaps felt best-suited for that spot. It only required her to pitch and maybe try to make a play in the field. But it didn’t stretch her too far.
But she thrived as a pitcher. She would lob the ball in and talk a little trash if the batter swung and missed. She showed no mercy – no matter whoever stood at the plate.
The last time we played ended on a climatic note. Kathleen’s youngest child, Peter, drove in the game-winning run, a feat made even more special because he has a strong aversion to doing anything athletic.
We couldn’t play the game in 2020 because of COVID as we each stayed in our homes.
We will play this year at their house on the tennis court, but it will be different in one respect. Kathleen passed away in August from cancer.
Her husband, Russell, has done a tremendous job of forging ahead and meeting needs with three boys still in the house. He has set a fine example, and his kids have all followed suit. We all miss Kathleen, but we know she’s with Jesus, no longer in pain and waiting for us all to join her when that time comes. We hold on to the special memories, and this Thanksgiving we are grateful for the 54 years she was with us instead of dwelling on the years she won’t be with us.
Once we hit the tennis court, I will be ready to go. I might even step in and pitch. A little trash talk never hurt anyone.
David Fawcett is the sports editor of InsideNoVa/Prince William. Reach him at email@example.com