THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE
THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE
The season ended November 1st, just 114 days ago. In some ways, it feels like yesterday; and in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. But one thing is certain, as players report to training camp, your team, my team, your buddy’s team, your rotisserie team (Millenials, look it up), won’t look the same.
Not counting free agent signings, since November 5th, there have been roughly (sometimes the deals are split into multiple parts) there have been 62 trades involving roughly (again, it is not an exact science) 161 players. Said differently, it was as if each team completed at least two trades, and more than six full 25-man rosters turned over, in 3½ months. You may want to read the SI Baseball Preview issue (that is the one that comes after the decidedly non-sports edition) a little more carefully this year.
As the players take the fields across Arizona and Florida, you may need more than a scorecard to keep track of all the new names on the backs of all the new uniforms. By October of each season, we feel solid in our knowledge of the teams and the players on the field. But then the World Series ends, and the off-season begins. The Hot Stove has become a rite of passage, another integral part of the game. Do any of us long for the time when the Reserve Clause was in effect and we knew who would show up each Spring because they were on the roster the previous Fall? The business of baseball has become so huge, so costly, so treacherous, that teams need to continually make upgrades (see, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Giants, et al.) or persistently make downgrades (see, Phillies, Brewers, Braves, et al.).
In short, the only constant is change.
The subtitle of this Blog is “Baseball as Life”. With Spring upon us (at least in Florida, Arizona, and Southern California), and baseball season knocking on the door, and with the litany of things going on in my life, lately I have been spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about life . . . and change.
Whenever I meet a parent-to-be, I give them the cold, hard truth that (a) the first three months after birth will suck, no matter what, and (b) as soon as you get the hang of any given phase, your child will move out of that phase and you will start anew. As with your favorite baseball team, in parenthood, the only constant is change.
The books we buy for our overly-coddled, pillow-protected, helicopter-hovered children try to explain that “change is strange”. But kids are resilient; they adapt and move on. It is us parents that need to read those books.
I remember a few years back when I was lamenting that a nanny who had been with our family for many years intended to leave. “How will the kids react?” I wondered. But, really, it wasn’t the kids I was worried about . . . it was me. How would I cope with a new person in my home, fixing our meals, driving my kids? The kids, they were fine – change wasn’t strange for them; change was strange for me.
As with a new starting pitcher or a new lead-off hitter, we must deal with the changes that happen around us each and every day. Because we are “old” and set in our ways, each change feels monumental. However, our kids live in a world of constant change – change doesn’t faze them. Kids are less dogmatic and more willing to accept something new, so change isn’t strange, it is just part of who and how they are. They see changes every day: they attend new schools; girls they have known since pre-school now have boobs; boys they used to bathe with now have hair in different places and deeper voices; they have new coaches and new teammates. Change is their constant, and they just roll with it.
But every so often, changes occur that have a lasting impact – on both us and our kids. Recently I (and friends and family) have been touched by many life events – both mitzvahs and misfortune. In just the past few weeks, I have attended a bar mitzvah, hosted a bar mitzvah, attended a funeral, paid respects at a Shiva house, and visited a dear friend in the ICU. Each one of these “experiences” represented a major life event, and represented a life-change, writ large. These changes were both strange and scary.
This isn’t Greinke signing with the Diamondbacks or the Yankees getting Chapman for the bullpen – these were life and death situations that adults – let alone kids – have a hard time dealing with.
Every night for what seemed like two weeks I would come home spent. I must have looked as haggard as I felt, as my kids repeatedly asked “what’s wrong?” and “are you okay?”.
But how do you explain to a child that their friend’s father passed away, without raising all sorts of fear in them – especially when this man’s death brought up all sorts of fears in you?
How do respond when your child – with bright-eyed optimism – asks if the friend you visited in the hospital is getting better?
How do you conceptualize the idea that “giving up” is sometimes noble and dignified, and not cowardly or weak?
How do communicate the pride you feel watching your child on the Bima, knowing all of things you know, but are simply incapable of putting into words.
As we watch our children grow and reach certain milestones, we kvell at their accomplishments. But when we step back and realize how much time has passed since _________ (fill in the blank), we cannot help but get slapped in the face by the backhand of mortality.
And, as good parents, we must address our own mortality in private, away from our kids, so as to protect them from unnecessary concern or worry. Dealing with aging is not a change that our kids cotton to; seeing a parent move more slowly, or not be able to participate like they used to, or creak as they get off the couch, are not changes that our kids just accept. Seeing a parent get sick, and have to go to the hospital, and take all sorts of medicine, is not okay to kids. It scares them. And it disconcerts us. And so are the days of our lives.
The seasons change, the players change, the uniforms change, and our connection with our kids change. And maybe the start of the new season is – like Spring itself – an opportunity for renewal, for a fresh start; a chance to knock that rust off our relationship with our kids and figure out how to deal with the “new” them. I blinked and my little boy was wearing a suit and tie and carrying the Torah. I know I will blink again and he will be wearing a mortar board.
I often joke that my life feels very much like Groundhog Day. The days bleed into each other, the weeks become months, the months become years. But, without me even knowing it, slowly, incrementally, everything is changing. While it may all feel the same, in fact, the only constant is change.
So go home, grab a pencil, and mark your kids’ heights in the door jamb – you will be shocked at what you see.
And then grab the latest issue of Baseball America, or SI, or Baseball Prospectus, and see what changes happened since the Royals hoisted the World Series trophy on November 1st – you will be shocked at what you read.
And then grab your kid, a beer, and a dog, and settle into the bleachers (or box seats, if that’s how you roll), and enjoy another season of the greatest sport on Earth. Because, even in a world where the only constant is change, some things simply don’t: the smell of the grass, the crack of the bat, and roar of the crowd . . . and for one more season, the sound of Vin Scully’s voice.
42 days until we officially hear: