For One Night, We Were All Shen Baseball Parents
What I'm about to write comes from the sports fan and the dad in me: I can't remember a time when a local athlete made me more proud. I don't know Braves pitcher Ian Anderson or his father Bob or anyone in their family. But as a father and a man who has always had a deep rooted love for sports (especially baseball) I got chills watching this kid take the mound, with a chance to pitch his team into the Word Series, and challenge every hitter that dare step in the batters box against him. Anderson showed grit, poise, determination and heart as he battled his butt off giving his team a chance to win a game 7 while the world watched. He's 22.
There are a tons of ways kids make us proud; kindness, compassion, manners, curiosity, respect for elders and good grades are a helluva start and a darn good foundation to build from. I'm not sure where 'becoming a MLB pitcher' ranks on list, I guess it depends on who you ask. Last night as I watched Shen grad and Rexford native Ian Anderson take the mound for game 7 on NLCS against the big, bad LA Dodgers I was every parent in Clifton Park- nervous and anxious - hanging on each one of the 73 pitches he made in his 3 innings of work.
The 22-year-old rookie wasn't his lights out dominate self, but he was more than effective. In a game where both teams were simply trying to piece together enough outs to get through nine innings, the Rexford ace did his job. When he left the game, the score was 2-2. The Braves would actually take the lead 3-2 in the game but in the end, the powerful Dodgers offense was too much to keep in check. Dodgers 4 - Braves 3, ending the season for Anderson and the Braves.
When my son Brody was 2, we started taking him to Valley Cats games and he quickly fell in love with the mascot Southpaw, not the really the game. When he was 3, I bought him his first glove and took him to a few Shen baseball games. Ironically enough, it was the same place that a few years prior, Anderson helped pitch Shen to a state title. When the game was over, players on the team game him a baseball and thanked him for coming. It was a really cool moment and I'm forever grateful to the young men who took the time to chat with my little man.
After the Shen players cleared the field, Brody and I stuck around for an hour and I rolled little ground balls to him in the outfield. I could have stayed all day and played with him but he was getting bored - and hungry. I took pictures, I soaked in every moment because there will never be another first time I get to play catch with Brody. That was ours. That moment has been etched in my memory forever. I remember what he was wearing, what the grass smelled like, how Brody smiled when the ball rolled into his glove. That moment was more for me than it was for him. It was a chance to do something with my son that my dad had done with me 10 thousand times. I don't know that he loved it, but I know that I did.
Brody is 5 now, and my role in his life is to provide him with whatever essentials he needs, basic or complex, I try to be there for him. It changes on the daily - one moment we're chasing zombies, the next moment we're singing a song or wrestling. The very next second I'm finding him his 800th snack of the day or listening to his fart jokes. It's no secret that adults are there (in the kid's eyes) to make sure said child has what they want, when they want it. It's not typically the other way around.
I say this because, on occasion, my love for sports takes over and I just can't help myself. I'll often ask Brody if he wants to have a catch, or throw the football around or hit some balls in the park. Usually he tell me "no" and then we'll quickly start talking about scary clowns or zombies. I'm fine with this, I really am. If my little guy doesn't love sports, I honestly will not care. I will love, support, and encourage whatever his passion ends up becoming. But I'd be lying if I told you that a piece of me didn't wish he'd soak up some love for baseball or football - heck it's always on in the house. He might love it by accident, right?
Last night my girlfriend Samantha, Brody and I settled in for the first pitch of the game and Sam and I asked Brody if he wanted to play catch. And he said yes! And he caught more balls from me and her in the house than he ever had in all of our catches combined.
When it was time for the little man to go to sleep, Sam and I watched the rest of the do-or-die game 7 with our hearts in our throats. I had never been more nervous watching a non-Yankee game than I was last night. I don't know why. I don't know Ian, I don't know his family and I have zero interest in the Atlanta Braves outside of the pitcher.
But I thought about Ian's mom and dad, his family, his coaches throughout the years and all the people who had a hand in his success. His story hit so close to home for me, that it was surreal. Will that ever be me someday; my kid on the hill in a game 7 of the NLCS? The odds are 50 million-1 against it.
But last night, we were all Shen parents and for 73 heart-pounding pitches, during a national sports moment watched around the world, the game felt like it was ours.
Just like how the first catch that Brody and I ever had - on the same field that Ian Anderson grew up playing on - was all ours.