It's Opening Day of baseball season.
Your team is undefeated. Optimism is unbridled; hope, eternal. It's a magical day when the Time-Space Continuum rips open and everyone in the vicinity of a ballpark becomes young, virile and free from all of life's burdens again. There is no responsibility to school, work or family. You exist solely to root, root, root and let your enthusiasm carry your favorite nine to victory.
I annually try to impart the specialness of this day to my children. I started my daughter young, strapping her onto my chest in one of those Baby Bjorn carriers (baby slings were neither cool nor deadly in those days, friends) and taking her to her first Opening Day when she was just 6 weeks old. I think the day's unusual Texas cold, typical Texas wind and God-awful, soon-to-be last-place Texas Rangers team she experienced that day didn't endear the day or the sport to her.
Still, I kept at it. Yesterday was her 10th Major League Opening Day. She's also been to one Minor League opening and the second-ever game between Major League teams at Citi Field (April 4, 2009: Mets vs. Red Sox). Yet her greatest concern every season is when can she get nachos and whether the ball park sells snow cones.
But something strange happened yesterday.
First, it was 73 and sunny in New York for that initial match-up between my Metsies and the hated Florida Marlins. Normally, it's about 43, overcast and threatening snow. Yesterday was the first Big Apple opening I've attended in which it not only cracked 52 degrees but I felt obliged to wear sunscreen.
Next, the 2010 Mets culinary lineup included -- yes -- snow cones. Of course, Thing 1 enjoys hers au naturale, meaning the snow cone (not my daughter) is naked. Plain. As in "no syrup." Yes, folks, yesterday I paid $4.75 for a cup of chipped ice.
It was around the fifth inning, after my son had passed out in a Cracker Jack-induced coma on my shoulder, that I looked right and witnessed magic.
My wife was teaching my daughter how to keep score.
"When the batter strikes out, you right down a 'K' in the box there," I hear My Love explain over the crowd noise and ascending jets from nearby La Guardia Airport. She went on to explain how you make a backward "K" if the batter is out on a called strike three. A discussion followed later, prompted by Thing 1, about why one uses a "K" rather than an 'SO' to indicate a strike out.
My Love then pointed out the diagram printed at the top of the scorecard that showed the fielders' positions and the numbers used to denote them in score keeping.
I interrupted their lesson and quizzed my daughter on what numbers meant a groundout hit to the shortstop who then threw to the first baseman. After a brief glare of despise tinged with panic and some wordless consulting with her mother, Thing 1 replied, "Six-three."
A man with a bigger ego and higher testosterone level might feel slighted that his wife rather than his own macho self was the one passing on this important baseball ritual to their child. Not me.
After all, who do you think taught her mother how to keep a scorecard?
Yesterday afternoon, bathed in the brilliant golden yet freakish early-spring rays in the upper deck ozone, I couldn't have been prouder of my two girls and myself.