There is nothing like a room of excited 4th graders to inspire you. Yesterday, after reading a couple of the stories to the kids in one of my classes, the prompts came thick and fast. Today's story is from the prompt, "What if a kid, at his first game, catches a ball but doesn't know he isn't supposed to throw it back?" So that is today's story of what happens when a kid catches a Johnny Damon home run and throws it back when the crowd starts chanting, "Throw it back!"
I also received about 4 or 5 prompts about a dog getting loose on the field, prompts about balls landing in various types of beverages and lots and lots of prompts about different kinds of fights in the stands, on the fields or spilling over between the two.
Ah to be 10 again. :)
So here is today's story about a first game.
Seth had never been to a baseball game before.
His uncle told him that if he wanted to be a real American boy, he had to learn to love baseball. His Abba and Ima would shake their heads at the him.
“Seth is a good boy,” his mother would say, “he will like what he likes.”
“If he wants to be an American boy, he needs to learn to like what the boys here like,” Uncle Mo would say. “Soccer is OK but baseball, football, basketball and hockey are what kids here like. They play soccer, but they watch these other sports.”
“Pish posh,” Ima would say to her younger brother. “If we were in Israel…”
“But we’re not. We’re in Boston in America and in Boston you hate the Yankees and root for the Red Sox.”
“Red socks, blue socks, green socks. Who cares?”
“You will when your son is worried about friends.”
So Seth learned about baseball from his uncle. He bought him books like “Watching Baseball” by Jerry Remy. He watched games and explained what was happening on the field and who the players were. Seth absorbed it all like a sponge, so he was excited when, over Shabbat dinner, Seth announced, “I have 2 tickets for the baseball game tomorrow. It’s time for Seth to go to his first game.”
“Mo, we’ve talked about this,” Ima said.
“Yes we have, and I am taking him to the game tomorrow.”
Ima looked at her husband, but he just shrugged, “Who does it hurt if Seth goes to a game?”
The next day, Mo arrived early. He had a red t-shirt for Seth that said “Red Sox” on the front and on the back it said, “Youkilis” and the number of 20.
“Kevin Youkilis is one of the best baseball players out there and he also happens to be Jewish,” Mo told him. “If you were to work as hard as he does at anything, you will be a success.”
“Where are we sitting?”
“Ah, that’s a special surprise! We will get to sit on the Green Monster in the seats there.”
“The ones on top of the wall?”
“Those are the ones.”
“Sweet!” Seth said.
“An American all ready I see,” Mo said with a smile.
At the park, Seth had a hard time knowing where to look first. The green of the park, the colors of the people, the vendors selling everything from souvenirs to hot dogs to things to drink.
“If you want, there is a place where we can buy kosher food.”
“No, Abba said I can drink water and if there’s kosher ice cream I can have that.”
“Did he now? Mo rolled his eyes and tried to hide his frustration. “I tell you what, if you get hungry, there’s a place on the concourse that has kosher food. I don’t want you to go hungry during the game.”
The game started and Mo started to show how Seth how to keep score in the book. He explained to him the different positions and how each position was numbered one through nine, starting with the pitcher at one and all the way through to the right fielder.
The announcer then said, “Now batting, number 22, Johnny Damon.”
The crowd began to boo.
“Why are they booing?” Seth asked his uncle.
“Because Johnny Damon left the Red Sox for the Yankees. He did it after saying he’d never play for the Yankees unless the Red Sox made an offer that was an insult. They offered 10 million dollars a year and he still signed with the Yankees. I wish someone would insult me like that.”
“So he’s a jerk.”
Damon swung and missed. The crowd cheered.
He swung and missed again, the crowd went wild.
On the third pitch, he connected with the ball. It soared through the air and Seth jumped up and caught the ball. He was excited. He had never had anything like that happen before. Looking with excitement at his uncle, he saw the disapproval on his face.
Mo just shrugged. The people around him started chanting, “Throw it back! Throw it back!”
Seth didn’t know what to do. He looked to his uncle for guidance.
“Throw it back,” Mo said.
Sadly, Seth looked at the prize in his hand. He heard the voices chanting. With a sigh, he lobbed it in an arc back at the field. It bounced halfway between the wall and the base path. The crowd erupted in cheers around him.
“Good job Seth. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure have a good souvenir to take home today.”
“It’s part of the game I guess.”
Mo smiled, “It is.”
It wasn’t long before the security people approached them in their seats. Mo looked at Seth and, in Hebrew, said “Follow my lead.”
The beefy security guy looked at Mo.
“Excuse me sir, you two need to come with us. You should bring your things with you as throwing the ball back on the field is a reason for ejection.”
“What are they saying Uncle Mo?” Seth asked in Hebrew.
“Let me speak with them,” Mo replied with a smile. In a heavy accent, Mo looked at the security person.
“This is my nephew’s first baseball game, he recently moved here from Israel. He thought when the crowd chanted ‘throw it back,’ that he was supposed to return the ball to the field. I have explained to him that you are not supposed to do that, you are supposed to keep the baseball as a souvenir.”
“You need to come with us.”
“Uncle Mo?” Seth looked at his uncle. He then looked at the security men and used a heavier accent, “I am sorry sir, I did not know. I thought the people around here were telling me that is what you do.”
The man in front of the them turned around.
“Hey pal, cut the kid some slack. His uncle’s trying to teach the kid the game. Leave ‘em alone.”
Around them a bunch of other people began chanting, “Leave the kid alone. Let him enjoy the game.
One of the security men radioed someone and then tapped the other on the shoulder. “I just got word to let the kid stay,” then looking at Mo, “but sir, if there are any other problems, you will need to leave immediately.”
“Thank you sir, thank you,” Mo replied.
Seth also thanked the guards as they moved towards the back of the seating area.
The man in front of them turned around.
“Hey buddy, you keep teaching the kid the game. He was right in throwing that traitor’s ball back onto the field.”
“Thank you for your help,” Mo smiled and offered his hand. The man shook it.
“Hey kid, do you play baseball yet?”
“You’ve got a pretty good arm on you, find a team in your area and start playing,” he said with a smile.
“Todah Rabah, thank you,” Seth replied.
“Kid, if you’re going to be an American, you gotta learn baseball,” the man said with a wink. “Now go back to watching the game with your uncle and enjoy.”
After things settled down, he asked his uncle why the guards wanted them to leave.
“They worry that when you do things like throw a ball back onto the field, that some people will start throwing other things and it will get crazy.”
“That makes sense. Why did everyone yell for me to throw the ball back?”
“Because we get mad at losing and players that betray us.”
“Perhaps another ball will come this way, this time by Kevin Youkilis.”
“From your mouth to the Creator’s ears,” Mo laughed.
Unfortunately that ball didn’t come and the Red Sox lost the game by one run, but before leaving, a number of people around them took the time shook his hand or asked if he enjoyed the game. As Seth and Mo left the park to head home, Mo looked at his young nephew.
As they Fenway, Mo took Seth to the large souvenir store across the street from park. He bought his nephew a t-shirt with the Red Sox logo and the team’s name written in Hebrew as well as a blue baseball cap with red “B” on the front.
“There, now you look like a fan,” his uncle laughed as the new ball cap covered the simple hand crocheted kippah on Seth’s head.
Seth smiled as his uncle lead him through the streets towards home.
“So what do you think of baseball now?”
“I think I like this game a lot. I would like to go again and learn how to play.”
“Those words are music to my ears Seth. I know your mother doesn’t understand, but I’ll speak to your father and, if I have to, I will teach you myself.”
“Uncle Seth, why baseball? Why not a different sport.”
They walked along with the crowd for a little bit as his uncle thought.
“I like that the game does not have a clock,” his uncle said. “To me, when I am at a game, it is like taking part in Shabbat. You can’t rush it and you can’t slow it down. It happens the way it is supposed to happen. Sometimes it is incredible and by the end you feel refreshed and excited. Sometimes you just feel like there were things you would have rather have done. In the end, I feel a richer person for baseball.”
“What about the other sports. I know basketball but hockey?”
His uncle smiled.
“I think that will be the next thing I take you to, a Bruins game. Where baseball is organic and unfolds as it does, hockey is excitement and speed.”
“I think I’d like that. I think I would like to come to more Red Sox games too.”
“That I know we can do this summer. I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to it.”