Jackson, my 7 year old and I went to the Rockies game at Coor’s Field in Denver on Saturday night. He always wants to be the first one in the ballpark and the last to leave. We got there before the homeless guys at the parking lot we like to support were ready to take our 20 bucs. We walk over to Coor's holding hands, only stopping for the peanuts with the Rockies logo and some water. Jackson’s first order of business is to be one of the first 10,000 fans to get a Carlos Gonzalez bobble head. I want to take in that first wondrous view of the ballpark but there is no time for reflection. Jackson quickly sizes up the action for batting practice and gets to work deep down the third base line. He has to position himself so the players can see him. He has learned that players like to hear the word, “PLEASE” when you are yelling out. Jackson doesn’t smile when he waves his glove. His mission to get a ball is serious business. We watch the players warming up in the outfield for awhile. A sea of kids all craving balls and autographs leaning over the low cement wall waving their Sharpies and gloves. Then out of nowhere, one player misses his catch, reaches for it on the ground, sees Jackson and throws the ball right into his outreached glove. Jackson scoops it up in wonder, looks at it, and runs his fingers along the seams. On the scoreboard it says the game will begin in a little less than two hours. It sounds like a lot of time but trust me, it is the journey not the destination. We are together which is the best part. Jackson makes the stadium his own. He goes all over to see different views, check out the new pitcher just up from the minors signing balls over in right field, look at the souvenirs, finally settling for a snow cone.
A warm evening baseball game in summer is pastoral and timeless. The sun sets over the left field stands creating long hard shadows that soften then fade away. The Coor’s Field lights glow and illuminate the sea of grass as the sky grows dark and the stands fill up with fans craving lots of cold beer. Finally, (and for all the “journey” talk I don’t say this lightly) 2 1/2 hours after arriving at the ballpark….the game begins. Jackson has “game ball” on his mind. The Rockies end the top of the first inning with a double play. The second baseman DJ LeMahieu is walking off holding the ball. He sees Jackson with his glove up and throws the ball right at him. Jackson catches the ball. I am not nearly fast enough to get a picture. I look at Jackson’s eyes and cannot totally read the shock of relief. It is not a look of entitlement. He is almost tears. I am almost in tears. I can’t describe that moment. We both just stare at the ball in his glove for a long time like it is a gift from a stranger he willed to notice him. I text a picture to Stephie and our moms. I try to not make that big a deal about the ball…it is the GAME after all and being together and all that.
Still…maybe it is not the journey after all. Maybe it is the ball in your glove which you have to hold onto tight as the usher is pointing to the exit and saying you have to go now, “you are the last ones in the ballpark.”