Why the Boys of Summer Are So Important to Me

Dear Chicago White Sox,

I want to tell you a tale about a renewed love story.

I grew up in mid-Michigan, with both sets of grandparents and spans of aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby. I remember a lot of family gatherings on a lot of different holidays and now-forgotten occasions. One set of memories that will forever stay with me, though, is going to my Dad's parents' on Sunday afternoons and hearing the Tigers' game on the radio. My grandpa was a die-hard Tigers fan, and I don't think he ever missed a radio-cast game during his adult years.

(Yes, the Detroit Tigers. Stay with me here...)

2015-08-14-1439568084-6442824-Ernieharwell.jpg I don't think my grandpa had any idea how to connect with me. He had one daughter out of four kids himself, and I was one of just four granddaughters, and #7 out of 10 grandkids. But the summer I discovered baseball as a 9-year-old, I would sit with him at the dining room table, listening to WJR with Ernie Harwell providing the play-by-play, visualizing the whole diamond in my head, and the chasm between us got a little smaller. It didn't matter so much to me as to which team won, but how exciting the game was (It's a good thing, too, since that era of the club was in a slow decline and wins were far and few between). Ernie Harwell, though, boy he could make ANYTHING sound exciting! Nonetheless, they were OUR Tigers and OUR team. Even through all his swearing during the game (and grandma shouting from the kitchen to "watch your language, Elmer, the kids are here"), grandpa showed me what team loyalty was, and how to be a real fan.

But after several years, high school was on the horizon and baseball faded from my view. My grandpa died when I was 16, and after that, listening to baseball on the radio just wasn't fun anymore.

Fifteen years later, I re-discovered how much I enjoyed the game when I lived out east and was invited to a Mets game. Holy cow! What a blast! I could finally SEE what was actually happening on that diamond -- for all the years of listening to baseball, I'd never been to a live game. I managed to get to a few more games, and certainly had fun at each one; but I have to say, no team captured my heart like the Tigers had.

A few more years passed, and I gave birth to my son, Z. A whirling dervish to be sure, he lived to be in perpetual motion. He loved to watch anything full of motion. Anything with a ball was a good game.

When we moved to Chicagoland 13 years ago when Z was 3, I decided it was time: I wanted to take him to his first major league ballgame.

I'll be honest, I first looked up the Cubs because, at the time, they were doing really well, even making a drive for the playoffs. But not knowing if my 3-year-old would want to leave after the bottom of the 1st or fall asleep during the 7th inning stretch, I didn't want to pay the exorbitant prices I saw listed for Cubs tickets. So, I checked out the White Sox website and ended up buying relatively cheap tickets for a Saturday afternoon game.

With fingers crossed that he could sit still long enough to actually watch the game, and the tote bag stocked with anything I could think of to make it a pleasant day out, we entered Comiskey Park*

And Z was TOTALLY entranced!

This is the kid who would normally be running from Point A to Point Z, zigzagging all around, pointing and asking questions -- who was now wide-eyed, mouth hanging open in a perfect little "O", and walking through the halls in awe, his little hand staying put in mine, not saying a word; just looking up and around at all there was to take in.

We stopped at a vendor and bought him a jersey: Frank Thomas'. Z liked the number "35". I helped him put it on, and then we walked hand in hand out into the gorgeous Chicago sun-filled stadium.

He thought he had died and gone to DisneyWorld.

2015-08-14-1439568041-4307845-frankinaction.jpg NOW the talking began: he wanted to know what everything was, the scoreboard was of special interest and he remained skeptical when I told him there would be fireworks if the Sox hit a home run. But oh my, nothing compared to when "the guys" came out onto the field. You'd have thought he was an old pro to hear him cheer for the team. And when Frank Thomas came out, Z almost exploded, screaming as if he'd won the lottery: "That's MY guy! I have 35!" The next couple of hours tested my memory for how the game worked as I struggled to give him an age-appropriate explanation, and he listened carefully and watched intently to everything going on down on the field.

Not only did he want to stay for all 9 innings, but wanted to know when HE got to go down to the field and play with "the guys on his team"!

We've been proud fans ever since. Thank you, Chicago White Sox, for 13 years and counting of great baseball and great family time. Z has grown up with the same admiration for the game -- and I hope, good memories -- that I have. In this world today, it's a beautiful thing to know that some things never change.

Except now it is the Chicago White Sox who have my heart.

So dearest Sox, I remain,

Still in love with the game

*Yes, I know the name has been changed. But no, I won't call it anything but Comiskey. That's how I heard it growing up listening to Ernie, and that's how I know the Home of the White Sox.