Passing the Torch

Passing the Torch

April 12, 2024 0 By Dan Freedman

This article first appeared in the IBWAA Here’s The Pitch newsletter on April 11, 2024

I have written many times in this space about my family connection to baseball. My grandfather, the stalwart Max, lived in Boston and was a Royal Rooter. My father, Saul, grew up in Beantown, sneaking into Fenway (but no hot dogs on Yom Kippur), and cheering on Ted Williams. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but the love of the Red Sox was passed straight down to me. Joe Posnanski and others have said that your baseball fandom is formed between ages 12 and 14. Well, I was fourteen in 1986, so heartache and heart break were injected into my early teen veins, never to be metabolized. For my first child, I was lucky enough to be bequeathed a son, and into his hands went a glove and a soft Red Sox baseball. The fourth generation of fan was created.

While my love for the BoSox has never waned, the four championships in 14 years lessened the urgency. Moreover, age softens everything, including your edges. As an avid baseball fan, and as an observer and writer about the sport, I have slowly taken a more 35,000 foot view – enjoying all aspects of the game, respecting players of every team (I’m not ashamed to say that I got a little dusty when the previously-hated Derek Jeter hit a walk-off single in his final Yankee Stadium at-bat), appreciating the finer points and constant evolution, but also calling out the game when it fails its players and its fans (e.g., the Cubs desire for a ring allowing them to justify trading for Aroldis Chapman; anything related to John Fisher; the Dodgers putting more value of analytics than morality in signing Trevor Bauer; etc.). Truth be told, I like my current perch better than my youthful exuberance and constant frustration.

But my son, my 21-year old progeny, is now truly coming into his own as a baseball fan. And I am here for all parts of it. There is nothing better than the nature vs. nurture argument. And, as I laid out above, nature came out of the gate with a three furlong lead. But nurture slowly gained ground. Maybe it was the behind-the-scenes tour of Fenway at age six; or the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game at age seven; or Wrigley Field at age ten; or going to the World Series at fifteen. Who knows? But he’s got the baseball bug, and got it good.

So a couple of weeks ago I was visiting him in Washington, D.C. where he is interning for the semester. He – not me – asked if I could extend my stay for an additional day to go to the Nationals’ opening day. Alas, I could not. But he could; and he did. He got himself a ticket, hopped on the Metro, and took in the game all by himself; just as I have done on so many occasions. I was standing at my desk that Monday afternoon, literally minding my own business, when a text popped up on my phone. It was a picture of Nationals Park taken from the 400 level, with a two-word caption: “So back.”

Jake’s view from the 400 Level at Nat’s Park

As a parent, all you really want is for your children to be happy (and safe). You want them to find their passions and explore them. And if those passions line up with your own, all the better. My son beat me to the ballpark this season (but only by a few days). While there twinge of envy, there was more than a dollop of pride. You get to a point in life where you pass the torch. I am not quite yet ready to do so – nor is he, as he still wants me to buy tickets, hot dogs, and beer – but it is so good to know that when I am, he will be ready. He is already checking train schedules for Baltimore and Philly – just like his father has done.

Soon my son will graduate college and become a bona fide adult. And at some point he may have a son of his own. At this point I feel perfectly confident that he will carry the torch, teach the game to his kid, and then, when the time is right, he will pass it along to the next generation.