The Greatest Fans on Earth

Someone asked me the other day what I wanted to be when I grow up.

When I was 10 years old my life was consumed with a game called baseball. There was nothing more I wanted to do than play ball. It started with a simple walk home from school one day. I walked home everyday and when spring came that year so did the fresh-cut grass and a smell I can remember to this day. I used to sit in the bleachers and watch the guys throw the ball around, and try to gather up the courage to ask my parents to play. The only scary part of asking them was I knew what the answer would be and I knew I wouldn’t like it. We were less fortunate than some other families and I knew my parents wouldn’t be able to afford the uniform, glove and shoes it took to play the sport.

After about a week I finally did ask my parents if I could play. It was at the dinner table where we usually talked about events of the day. My mother, the one that usually made all the decisions in our family, looked at me and said “son, there is nothing I would love more than to watch you play ball, but we just can’t afford it”. I remember looking at my father as I was pleading my sales pitch. He had an expression I remember to this day. It was one of frustration. I knew he wanted me to play and I knew he felt bad that I couldn’t, so I left it alone. About a week passed since I’d asked them to play when my mother found a way to get me into the game. She borrowed some shoes and a glove from a friend who had a son that played and had extras. They somehow came up with the money to pay the fee and I was in.

That year was one of the greatest of my life. I made the all-stars and played every game. The following year, I had spotted a glove in a store where my mother and I were and I begged her to buy it for me. The one that I had borrowed was bigger than my hand and the webbing was worn and loose. She told me that I would have to make do with what I had. I occasionally would ask from time to time for that glove, but was always greeted with the same reply. When the season began I was as happy as any kid on earth I guess. I was playing the greatest game on earth and I was good at it. Again that year I made it to the all-stars. We had made it into the finals and I had hit a home run to put our team up with one inning to go. We had two outs and were up by one. We just needed one out to accomplish what no other team in our area had ever done. Make it to the regionals. They had two guys on base when the batter hit a hard fly ball that I picked up off the bat and had a good jump on. I stretched out and made the catch and as I was falling to the ground the webbing of the glove broke and the ball fell out of my glove. All I could think of as I lay there on the field crying was that If my parents would have just bought me a glove that fit then I would have made the catch. I laid there until almost everyone had left. That’s when my father walked out and stood there with me. He never said a word and we looked at each other, words were exchanged but never spoken. The look on both of our faces was enough said.

I lost interest in the game after that. In fact, I didn’t pick up a glove at all. My mother and father were constantly asking my brothers to try to get me to play ball with them in the yard but I really didn’t want to. The fresh green grass gave way to the brown sod of winter and Christmas was soon on us. My parents had already told us that the Christmas was going to be tough and so should we. None of my brothers or sisters asked for anything and we were gearing up for a nice Christmas dinner together to enjoy each other’s company.

That Christmas morning was the only year I can remember my father having to call me down to the Christmas tree. I was usually the first one there to see what was going to be there. Much to my surprise there were some things there and it was nice. I was helping my brothers and sisters clean up the mess we had all made when I kept hearing this popping noise coming from the other room. Everyone seemed to know what it was but me, and by the look on his or her faces they did. As I stood up to walk in the direction of the sound, my father came around the corner. He had a ball in one hand and in the other was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was the glove that I had asked for, it was the perfect color, it had the perfect smell and as he stood there throwing the ball into the glove it had the perfect sound. I know what that glove cost and I know that every one of my brothers and sisters did without that year so that I would play what I was born to play. Me and my dad played catch in the front yard that year under a grey sky, there was no green grass, no bleachers or bases to run. Just me and the babe playing catch together while the greatest fans on earth watched from the window of the second floor of our home.

So you asked what I want to be when I grow up….. I want to be that guy that I played catch with in the front yard, I want to be the people who gave up everything for me and watched from the window so that I could live my dream. I want to be my mother who always found a way to make me smile. If I can just be that then I know I can do anything in this life with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

Copyright 2011, Mark Rash. All Rights Reserved.


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