”If I could Save Time in a Bottle” By Jonathan Silver

I just had my car washed and I am sitting at a traffic light in the rain – crying. I promise you the tears are not from miscalculating the weather.  There is no sadness and I’m not in pain. I am however very fortunate to have experienced many amazing things in my life. Even more blessed to know that a good bit of those experiences include my two boys. My tears are for joy and astonishment. I have just added another Moment to my list. Unexpected and impromptu. It was a gradual build – until the traffic light.

There is no question that there is an enormous gap between what kids sports should be and what kids sports have become. Either the competition isn’t strong enough on the field or too fierce in the stands. Is this a past time or is this a business? I generally hear more stories of frustration than elation – unless your kid sees the field a ton or your team won that weekend. You can either love or hate when the conversation creeps into “have I told you about my child’s athletic prowess recently.” I’m totally guilty of over blowing the importance of a youth baseball game in the middle of November or scouring game film to see a block my kid made to open up a hole during a 10 yr. old football game, but hey, this piece isn’t about me.

The beauty of emotions are that you get to feel and act differently from your average routine. Show no emotion and we ask if you have a pulse.  Display too much emotion and we immediately assume you’re a dad coaching his son in youth sports.

Don’t look at me.

There is no telling why a parent chooses to coach their own child in sports. If you’re competitive or “emotional” I’m not convinced volunteering to coach youth sports is always good for the parent/child relationship. Especially if you’re their ride home.

You don’t have to be the head coach to make an impact on the team or touch the heart of your child. It’s really the “emotional” component that needs to be monitored – that usually comes in the form of a bound folder presented to me at home by my wife after the game. A good indication of my performance, not my son’s play, is whether or not she is still in the bleachers after the game. If I don’t see her I immediately find my son and let him know that whatever was said, at whatever volume it was projected know it was the “emotion” speaking, but remember it comes from the heart.

Even at a young age my boy understood that I may become “emotionally involved.” More times than not he was the one doing the consoling. He got it. Play hard, get a McFlurry after the game, and make sure dad knows there will be many more games. At Northside Youth Organization, baseball starts at 3 or 4 yrs. old – it ends at 14 yrs. old. The collective “we” started at almost 4. We were both on the field together. I was emotional, but definitely not “emotionally involved.” Yet!

We cruised through year after year together. Me collecting bound report folders from my wife, and my son building a nice trophy case. I swore that every year was going to be the last time I was active with a team. By the time the kids are asking to borrow your razor, it’s generally time to get one of those comfortable bleacher seats and watch from outside of the fence. My son is now 14 years old. He loves me, but probably sees enough of me that his independence is more important. I was definitely done wearing a team hat.

I did help with his 13 yr. old NYO Spring Season team, but only after getting his blessing. Onto 14 yr. old Fall Ball. Not as serious a time in Rec baseball, but still the opportunities to get “emotional” when necessary. They needed head coaches for the Fall season. I respectfully declined, and in fact, let my wife know she could get rid of her book binding machine – I was done with the field and the dugout. Very late in the season our team experienced some technical difficulties – they were coach less – I was contacted by the commissioner to help finish out the season. A couple of games and then the playoffs. How could I stay away. My wife wasn’t excited – the book binding machine found its way back upstairs. Frankly, neither was my son. “C’mon dad, can’t they find someone else?” made that pretty clear.

Our team didn’t have much in the way of baseball acumen, and unfortunately lacked any real continuity. Attendance was out right abysmal. One game we had to borrow four kids from different teams, and even then we just made 9 players. No this ragtag group didn’t miraculously rise from the ashes and go on the unthinkable run to a championship. In fact, we got our asses kicked. On an unseasonably warm November morning the Red Sox took to Garr Field as the away team. This would be my son’s last baseball game at NYO.

Sometimes as a parent we miss the mark when it comes to reading our kids. I got to sit on the bucket – as a coach, as his coach – one last time. Max has risen to many occasions, and I felt like this opportunity would be no different. There was no question in my mind I would be getting a full dossier on my behavior that morning. My son didn’t go out with a bang that game. It never dawned on me how much the extent and “emotional” significance this mile stone would weigh on him. Hundreds of games in all three sports played year after year after year in the same park. Indelible memories.

Not unexpectedly the game ended with the Red Sox packing up their gear until next Spring. I corralled our team just inside the foul line in left field. I thanked the boys for letting me coach them these last couple of games, gave them high fives, and thanked the dads for their time. Everyone was walking away, and I noticed my son – standing still – bawling. My first thought was to go right into the “emotion talking” speech, but I knew it wasn’t that. In one big step he had his arms wrapped around me tightly. The Moment. Sheer, unadulterated emotional release. I hugged him back like only a parent can and whispered in his ear, “thanks for letting me join you, what an awesome ride.” We stood there on the field for what seemed like days. The other team warming up around us. We collected ourselves, Max gather his gear and we walked off together – game ball in hand.

The depth and weight of that last game, and the level of finality that it brought to both me and my son took time to marinate. It took the rhythmic sound of windshield wipers and me in my car by myself to understand The Moment – I had started to cry.

Hi, my name is Jonathan Silver and I am always – “emotionally involved.”

Thanks for the memories NYO.