Once every month or so, I’ll go to a White Sox game by myself. I go to observe things in some quixotic effort to make sense of my life, as if baseball still held answers I couldn’t find anywhere else.
I learn the most observing young fathers with their sons. Things become educational around the bottom of the second inning. During an exaggerated lull in the game, a father will stare out at the field and lose himself in the grass. My father used to do the same thing. I asked him about it once. He said he wasn’t really looking at anything, he was just thinking about me. He said he was imagining me walking along the bullpen, far from the game, and that I was twenty-one. I wasn’t playing in the game or anything like that. It wasn’t a dream about me playing in the Major Leagues or anything silly. He said he imagined me as tall and handsome, like Carlton Fisk, the way Carlton Fisk stood tall and straight and regal, in command of everything before him. He imagined me like that, that I was twenty one and just graduated from a great college and was on my way to become a teacher or doctor.
During these lulls, when the fathers return from the grass and sand, they end up staring at their sons longer than usual, when the boys aren’t paying attention, when they’re doing things like eating hot dogs from paper food trays balanced on their knees. They stare and say nothing. They see beauty, I know that. They see beauty that is one with the dimensions of the field. The sloping shoulders and bony arms and the too-short haircuts and the noses growing too fast for the rest of the face in the race down the first baseline towards puberty will all meet at some divine angle of baseball-field symmetry and by the time they are men, they will look like Carlton Fisk.
Often, during these moments, they’ll explain things to their sons about the game and they choose their words very carefully, as if they are saying things they know will be repeated verbatim twenty years later from son to grandson.
I tried to remember something my dad told me about Luis Aparicio after Ozzie Guillen made an error in a game in 1991. I can’t remember. He gave it to me to pass down one day to my son, but I don’t have any children. I’ve never been married. I’ve had a hard life, who hasn’t, but my father never thought my life would be this hard. I’ve accomplished so very little and I’m grateful he is no longer here to see me struggle. He once joked that perhaps I was playing the wrong position, that I was playing third base when all along I was born to be a catcher.
And now it is I who is staring deep into the grass, no son at my side, no job to go to tomorrow morning, and I see a parade of young men walking along the track around the field, hundreds of them, oblivious to the game and the game oblivious to them. Handsome young men in their early twenties who all look like Carlton Fisk.