I, a Mets fan, gave birth to my son during the 2008 playoff season with the help of a doctor who was a Yankees fan. Not that either of those teams mattered that year but he and I had a long-standing, good natured, across town baseball rivalry. At the time, and then again when I had my daughter two and a half years later, he told me that I was setting them up for a lifetime of disappointment in baseball by being Mets fans. I, of course, responded by saying that, at least, they weren’t purchasing the World Series win.
Our family has continued to be Mets fans, despite my doctor’s opinions. The kids have become rather rabid fans. My son, who started playing baseball last year himself and started in Little League just this spring, fanatically checks the score on our phones and reads through box scores and game summaries during screen time. His grandparents gave him a Mets history book which he read religiously last year. My five year old daughter often initiates the cheering and stomping. She enjoys being with us while we watch the games and she has her favorite players but doesn’t care quite as much.
Last year’s season, which led us to the World Series, was a big deal for our family. It brought us together in new ways. We attended a game and even got to do the Mr. Met Dash afterwards where the kids get to run around the bases. For weeks, during the post-season, we collectively wore all the orange and blue shirts in our household. Three of us painted our fingernails in Mets colors. My son had decided to be a Mets baseball player for Halloween long before they even got into the playoffs but with his own name on the back. It turned out that Halloween was game 4 of the World Series. His costume was remarkably popular as we trick or treated and everyone we met was encouraging about the game. For the first time, we allowed the kids to stay up to the end of a night game (though my daughter fell asleep and had to be carried to bed).
Unfortunately, the Mets did not win that game or the World Series. However, as I continue to watch my little Mets fans embrace the new season, I have been considering the values of teaching baseball to them, both from a player’s perspective and a fan’s perspective.
As fans, they seem unperturbed that the Mets lost the World Series and we encouraged their pride that the Mets had made it as far as they had and done as well as they did. Their unwavering faith, hope, and belief will be critical for their future as Mets fans. As the season has started, the kids have been eager to get ready quickly for bed on some nights so they can stay up again and watch some of the game with us, which provides some nice family time. My son will explain parts of the game to my daughter that she doesn’t understand (and, for her part, she is just happy that he’s spending time with her and giving her attention).
The history of baseball has also been educational for them. They learned about Jackie Robinson and that African Americans weren’t even allowed to play for a long time. My daughter has questioned why there are no women who play baseball. I told her about how women played during World War II when men were at war and that there is a movie about it that she can watch when she’s older. Additionally, I explained about how women primarily play softball and that is because men’s bodies are simply stronger but that there wasn’t a professional league that I knew about for them.
As my son was entering his first game this past weekend, I reminded him that his team would still be getting used to each other, just like the Mets sometimes have to, and things might not be smooth sailing right away. I told him about how Mets catcher, Travis d’Arnaud, had to learn a very specific way to catch for one of the relievers but he had forgotten to do it for part of a game and, when he adjusted, the pitcher improved. My son is also a lefty, something that he runs into problems with in most areas of his life. However, in baseball, he’s very valuable. The other team isn’t used to dealing with lefties as much and it makes him feel important. Of course, there are the ideas of teamwork and trust that we want him to learn from his experience playing Little League and to witness as he watches the Mets play. Baseball, by its nature, forces team-building in ways other sports can’t. When he was playing soccer, my son would only pass to the players that he knew. With baseball, he has to throw where he knows there is the right play, no matter who is covering that base.
His team did not win their opening game but he was cheered by the fact that a teammate of his hit a two-run home run and another home run and that the Mets, who happened to be playing at the same time, won a shutout game. That is exactly the type of attitude that I want him to be learning: you win some, you lose some. And, if you’re a Mets fan, ya gotta believe!
Elana Gartner is a freelance writer and an award-winning playwright. Other articles of hers can be found at Kveller.com, A Child Grows in Brooklyn, Mom365.com, Park Slope Stoop and other publications. She founded the EMG Playwriting Workshop which fosters a supportive community for NYC playwrights. More about her playwriting is available at: http://www.elanagartner.com. Elana lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, son and daughter.