Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. I have so many reasons. The multiple snows of the Midwest are finally saying their goodbyes. I am able to once again emerge from my winter slumber and begin to do manly things around the homestead, like cut the grass, landscape, change oil on the cars, and my machines. I get to prepare and plant my garden each Spring with the sometimes reluctant, but always helpful hands of my four children and my awesome wife.
There is however, another reason I love the Spring and it is Baseball. I must admit that I love every single aspect of the game. The week of Valentine's at our house is very romantic, but it also means that pitchers and catchers have reported for spring training as well. I like baseball that much.
I guess I come by it honest, and not because I grew up in little league, either. I went to my first professional baseball game at the age of ten. I lived in Alabama at the time and we had a double A farm team of the Chicago White Sox called the Birmingham Barons. I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a muggy central Alabama night in the month of July, and my dad had been given some tickets from somebody at work. We got an old glove of my brothers and went to the park. By the second inning I noticed that there were a bunch of kids by the foul line trying to catch a ball, which was the holy grail to a kid at a minor league game. By the end of the night I had two foul balls, the team had won the game, and fireworks were exploding in the outfield. Is it any wonder why I was automatically hooked on this game?
A few months later, I was out in the yard throwing around one of those foul balls, when my dad came out and announced the batboy tryouts were that day, and I had only two hours until they were over. I just remember flying inside, putting on a new tshirt with my nice yellow (yes, yellow) sweatpants, hastily putting on my shoes, all the while trying to get to the car. I barely made it there and I think the people felt sorry for me, because I was truly awkward and geeky. I got the job. I was now eleven years old and had the volunteer job of all volunteer jobs. I spent eight hours a day as a batboy for future major league baseball players. I would go straight from school and get dropped off at the stadium and after a few weeks I felt like I owned the place. I knew everyone and they were getting to know me as well. I mostly loved the fact that I had my own uniform and was allowed on the field at the same time as the players. I had never played baseball before and so I had the perfect teachers, pro athletes. I spent whole games honing my craft of spitting sunflower seeds and blowing bubblegum. I would take messages from one bullpen to the other, taunting the opposing team. After being coaxed by the players, I once lit a fire in the bullpen and they had to temporarily stop the game. I saw things I never should have seen and heard things I never should have heard, let alone at such an early age.
I did meet some truly awesome individuals, though. One was the Baron's coach, Sam Hairston. Back in his day he was a Negro leagues catcher and caught for none other than Satchel Paige. Sammy had wonderful stories of the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues alike, and when he talked my eyes lit up like a child on Christmas morning. He gave me the gift of baseball history. He taught me the fundamentals of the game, and over my three years as a batboy, I got better and better and eventually played in high school. After Sam left, pitcher Mike Mongiello took his time to mentor me both on the field and off. We played golf, and once he even took me and a buddy to Six Flags. He taught me how to be a better pitcher and to this day we still keep in touch from time to time.
As a dad, I wanted to pass along my love for the game to my children, so a few years after the movie the Rookie came out, I rented it on opening day for me and my oldest two. My son was five, my daughter was three, and before the movie began I made some of my sister's "Vickie's cookies". Thus, Cookies and Rookies was born. It is a tradition, one that costs about $5 worth of ingredients and the time that it takes to make them and pop in a dvd. However, seven years later after Spring training is in full swing and the snow melts here in Kansas City, I will inevitably be asked, "Hey dad, when is Cookies and Rookies?"
I love the fact that we have traditions with our kids. We treasure the fact that they are still young enough to want to be with us. We want to be there for them as much as they will let us as they grow older and are adults. That is why I think that we as parents have to have traditions, and not just the Summer vacation to the beach, or Disney. I mean cheap, backyard camping, hunting together, hiking, time invested traditions, and little ones too like a plateful of cookies and a movie about baseball. When traditions involve food that you no longer eat due to food allergies or diet, it's fun to makeover a recipe. This is a kid tested, mom approved recipe. Hope you enjoy!
Click here to go to our post where Crystal gives you our "secret" recipe that I came up with!!