Tonight, around 6ish: We're getting ready to carve a pumpkin when Joshua looks up and asks, “Is there baseball tonight?”
One of my happiest nights as a father was the first night Joshua asked that. Emily and I coached him through the end of the season, and then through the playoffs. I explained that there were eight teams left, then that there were four and we were trying to be one of the last two. For Game 6 Emily coaxed him to wear his Mets pajamas to bring the team luck. He agreed and announced that “they will see me and know they have to win!” (The next night he, of course, went back into those PJs; told the morning after that they'd lost and the season was over, he asked: “Do you and mommy still love me?” That was not my happiest moment as a father.)
Is there baseball tonight? No, sweetie. There isn't. I explained that the season was done, but that there'd be baseball again in March. (Joshua isn't going to be pacified with pitchers and catchers doing wind sprints. After the first week or so, I won't be either.)
It didn't comfort him. It didn't comfort me. March? The kid is about to turn four. March may as well be 2100. And I feel the same way.
For a while after Carlos Beltran stood up in disbelief, I was OK. We'd given it all we could and come up short. I had other, long-neglected things to attend to. And there was still baseball. (Even if I couldn't work up much bother about it.) Now and then there were still little traces of us. Carlos Delgado on the field. Willie Randolph in the newspapers. I read about David Wright talking of Japan as if it were the end of the season, and felt a pang, but it was mild. Reyes and Maine would be there with him. Another pang, but I could handle it. Mike Pelfrey was in the Arizona Fall League. Eh. It would be interesting for a few minutes, but the season was over. A new champion crowned, free agents declaring, Halloween and November looming. Over. Wait til next year.
But then, the question my son got used to asking as summer crawled by, and I had to answer that no, there wasn't any baseball. And wouldn't be, not until long after he'd stopped asking.
I got on the treadmill a little while ago and flipped around for something to look at. A Mets game would have fit the bill admirably. Braves-Reds would have done the trick. Yankees-Rangers would have been acceptable. Columbus-Richmond? I could try it. There was nothing. Sitcoms and college football and reality shows and…wait, what was that?
It was Fever Pitch.
I flipped by it irritably — I don't hate Fever Pitch or anything, though the scene of Drew Barrymore not being dragged off by security guards is ridiculous and the fact that she and Jimmy Fallon were on the field at the end of Game 4 is an atrocity. But OK, if you can get by that, it's got some nice touches and it's harmless enough. Still, I wouldn't give it a second glance, normally.
This isn't normally. The sight of a groundout, of a baseball stadium under the lights at night, was piercing.
April. March. February. Whatever date you want to set for next year, it seems infinitely far off. What on earth am I supposed to do with myself until then?