A Mother’s Day tribute
In lieu of Covering the Bases, I’ve decided to post something for Mother’s Day. Without my mom, Patti, I wouldn’t be doing what I do today. Her passion for baseball is what fueled my own love for the game, and put me on a path to my job as a reporter.
Each year, Major League Baseball celebrates Mother’s Day by splashing the games in pink. It’s not only to honor all the good moms out there, but to raise awareness for breast cancer. Cancer affects almost everyone in some way. For me, it took away my mom on Christmas Day when I was only 14 years old. Cancer sucks.
Every day that I get to walk into a baseball stadium for work, I know it’s partly due to the foundation she built for me when I was a kid. Here’s something I wrote a while back about my mom making sure that, during her final summer, she was there to see me play one last game.
Mom was my biggest fan. Most kids with good moms would probably say the same, but it always felt like she took it to another level. For my baseball games, mom would sit in the bleachers, spinning a noisemaker and cheering me on loudly.
“Woo! Woo! Woo!”
Ugh, mom. Cut it out.
“Go Jordan! Woo! Woo! Woo!”
Mommm! You’re embarrassing me!
After a while, I just accepted that she wasn’t going to stop. That little, annoying, surprisingly-loud noisemaker wasn’t going to be left at home. She was going to be there in the front row, and she was going to make sure every parent at the field knew precisely which son was hers.
Mom made sure she was there to the end.
In the summer of ’96, I was playing for Gibson Chevy. We didn’t have traditional team names. The teams in South Holland’s 13-year-old Babe Ruth League were referred to by their sponsors. I played second base like my hero, Ryne Sandberg, and hit second in the lineup.
I was having the best season of my life, but mom was missing it.
As the cancer worsened, she just couldn’t make it to my games. I relied on rides from my friends and was keenly aware of the lack of noise when it was time for me to step into the batter’s box. There was the usual round of parental clapping, but nothing out of the ordinary.
I missed her.
Woo! Woo! Woo!
Gibson Chevy made it to the village championship game that summer, and mom did not want her condition to keep her at home.
The dad of one of my teammates owned a limousine business, and drove around town to pick each of us up one by one for the final game. I heard the honk coming from outside my house, gave mom a hug as she remained in bed and headed off to the game. I didn’t expect her to make it to the field.
Shortly before the championship began, I spotted our blue van turning onto the gravel road next to the field. After my dad parked, he walked to the back, pulled out mom’s wheelchair and rolled it around to the passenger door. She came. She came to see the game, and she had her noisemaker.
The game went back-and-forth and, based on the rules of the league, I had to sit on the bench for two innings near the end. The rules stated that every player had to make an appearance, and I was benched for the time being so Tony could play second. I was going stir crazy in the dugout, watching helplessly as the game moved into a tie in the seventh inning.
“Bastian,” said coach Gibson. “You’ll bat fourth this inning.”
Thank the good Lord up in heaven. I was going to re-enter the game.
Andre led off and ripped a single to right field. B.J. flew out and I moved into the on-deck circle. Jeff then struck out on three pitches, walking back to the dugout with his eyes fixed on the ground. I headed to the plate.
On the mound was a kid named Matt, who had one of the best fastballs in our league. I watched the first one go by for strike one.
“Woo! Woo! Woo!”
The next pitch was perfect and I didn’t miss. I took a cut and sent it to center field, where the outfielder got turned around and stumbled. Andre was off and running and I sprinted up the line, around first base and toward second. By the time the relay throw came in, Andre was across the plate and our teammates were swarming him in celebration.
I kept running beyond third, where my friend Josh was waiting with a bottle of red Gatorade. He splashed the contents on me, while someone else threw an arm around my shoulders, pulled me down and began giving me some joyous jabs to the side as the pile grew in size. My white pants were now stained bright pink, and I loved it.
After the on-field party calmed down, and I worked my way out of the dogpile, I looked beyond the backstop to where my mom was sitting. She was crying, and a group of my friends’ mothers were standing all around her wheelchair, giving her hugs as the tears flowed.
That was the last game she saw me play.
Mom wouldn’t have missed it for the world.