Life imitates baseball. If I didn’t already have a working title for my autobiography–“And Sometimes ‘Y’: The Story of an Irish Boy Growing Up in an Italian Neighborhood”–I’d probably use this one. It’s true: life does imitate baseball. The pace is right, the history and mythology are rich and the stories are real. These stories are tales of the all-time greats as well as the characters and connections made possible by the game. This is what makes baseball great: its gameplay and history connect generations better than any other sport can.
This is what makes baseball great: its gameplay and history connect generations better than any other sport can.
Now, this is not intended to be a defense of the game, and it is surely not a detailed history. Quite to the contrary, it’s the story of one out in one game in July and why it mattered.
My wife and I brought our two boys to their first Red Sox game yesterday. The experience was even better than what I imagined so many times for the past eight years. The seats were spectacular, the sky was perfect, balls flew all over the park, we found a place to park, and the Sox won. Fenway was fantastic!
Beyond the “w” and the new gear for my kids, I walked away with something more significant. What struck me in a “parenting meets pedagogy” way was that my parenting life, my teaching life and what you could call my baseball life came together in a meaningful way.
The Twins Miguel (Ángel) Sanó struck out to end the game, securing an 8-7 win for the Sox. Cue the standing ovation and The Standells. Why is this of note? If you are a baseball fan and a Spanish teacher like me, you certainly know that Sanó was one of the players profiled in “Pelotero: Ballplayer,” the 2011 documentary about fierce competition and frequent corruption in the Dominican player development system. I have created a whole unit on baseball in the DR. This film and the novella “Sueños de la isla” worked together to describe pelotero culture as well as real people’s lives on the island.
The unit was successful for a few reasons. It framed the first real reading we did in Spanish 1, giving them a narrative to follow and the vocabulary necessary to talk about it. It helped me reach a few students–some ballplayers, some not–who appreciated the story. We reconnected when Hanley Ramírez came to town and when Big Papi announced his retirement. Some of the real baseball lovers followed Sanó from the DR to Fort Myers to Chattanooga to the big leagues. More importantly, the unit got my students excited about Spanish and about baseball. There is really no higher calling in my line of work.
…the unit got my students excited about Spanish and about baseball. There is really no higher calling in my line of work.
I have followed Sanó’s progress off and on too. That our paths crossed for the last out of the first game my kids attended was mind-blowing. Did Sanó know this? Of course not. My kids? Not yet. Did Dr. Charles Steinberg, the conductor of all the tributes and ceremonies at Fenway know this? Alas, no.
So, if nobody but me knows this, why does it matter? Well, I’d suggest it matters for three reasons. First, it matters because two more Red Sox baseball fans were born into the light of a beautiful Sunday in the Fens. I hope they remember this and I hope they get to take their kids to Fenway some day too. Second, it matters because it was a lived example of connecting what you learn to what you love. Making meaningful connections between what you study and what you care about is essential. Learning is active–more a legged-out triple than a leisurely walk in the park. I think some of my students experienced this and I hope my own children do too–both with my family and teachers and coaches they will meet. Finally, it matters because it represents the forces at play it all of our lives. What are the chances Sanó made it to the big leagues and happened to be active on the roster and play and make the last out in the first game my boys attended? What if my boys’ fates are tied in to others’ in ways they’ll only recognize later? The world is connected and it’s changing faster than a Rick Porcello fastfall. Understanding people’s stories matters more every day, whether those stories are ones of hardship or celebration. I want my children and my students to understand this. Yesterday was a good start.
Gracias Sanó. Thanks baseball. Thanks boys.