The Greatest Baseball Game In 37 Years, (Part 2)

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was first published this past July. I’m reposting it in joyful anticipation of Game 3 in Philly. Go Yanks!.  (Here’s Part 1).

It was the Spring of 2006. I had accompanied my wife to the OB-Gyn’s office for a visit. An ultrasound had been scheduled along with the regular check up. We had been told that it might be possible, at that stage in my wife’s pregnancy, to discover our baby’s gender. The technician told us that a lot depended on baby’s position and his or her willingness to cooperate.

It’s impossible not to be awed by the incredible sight of your developing baby. Especially when you add to the improbability of it all, the fact that you and your partner were in near-fatal –and separate — car accidents. Surviving those had been, in itself, a miracle. A previous miscarriage made the moment terrifying and mystical at the same time.

The technician is describing what we’re seeing on the monitor in the same monotone cadence of a tour guide that’s seen the same sights hundreds of times:

“And here is the male genitalia,” she says.

“Honey!” my wife yelled.

“What?”

“She just told us it’s a boy!”

Of the torrent of emotions and thoughts that overwhelmed me at that instant, this is the one I remember most clearly:

“Will I have time to take my son to Yankee Stadium before they tear it down?”

My wife acquiesced and allowed me to buy a Yankee Bear mobile for the crib even though it wasn’t in keeping with the farm-themed baby’s room. It played “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” The Yankee onesy followed and the t-shirt after that. The hat was tough to find because all stores in a twenty-five mile radius were perpetually sold out. We live in the middle of Yankee country.

A friend jokingly asked if I had any fear that my son Nicolas might grow up to be a Mets fan or a Republican. Mets fan would be OK. My Dad was a Mets fan and I thought my Dad was cool. Becoming a Republican would take a lot of therapy to deal with and accept.

I sat my son on my lap that first Spring Training and I introduced him to all of the players and coaches as he sipped on his bottle. During exhibition games, I described the plays and I began to explain the rules of baseball. He only complained and fussed when he had to be burped or if his diaper needed changing. We made plans to go to a game in the Bronx the first chance we got. My friends Andy and Bernie were working on getting the tickets. Baseball Season was underway and my wife and I were embracing — and mostly succeeding at — our new parenting roles. Life was humming along.

Until we got the Infantile Spasms diagnoses from the Neurologist.

Nicolas had been with us about half a year when the symptoms began. At first, the sudden, involuntary moves appeared to be the reaction to a noise or a sudden move. Our son appeared startled and because it was not happening with a lot of frequency, this did not concern either Mom or Papa. As soon as the episodes — which never lasted more than a few seconds — brought a look of fear to our son’s face followed by a period of crying after each occurrence, we knew something was very wrong.

There was some bad news, with a small dose of good, in the words we heard from the doctor. After he had analyzed the scans, he told us about Infantile Spasms, a form of Epilepsy. We sat on the hospital bed, terrified by the news, holding on to our son. The good news? There were good odds that our son could respond to treatment. And if he did, we would know right away. Some children outgrow Infantile Spasms. Children with down syndrome — our son was diagnosed with DS at birth — have a higher recovery percentage than non-down syndrome children. If it didn’t work, we would have to learn how to live with Epilepsy. Millions cope with it everyday.

The nurse gave me an orange and a syringe and told me to practice. Once we went home, it would be my job to inject my son, twice a day, for the next twenty one days. Then some good news: On the second day of treatment, while still at the hospital, the seizures stopped. After a week there, the doctor was ready to send us home. My wife reminded him that we had to go home before the weekend. My son and I were going to Yankee Stadium.

I had never been to Monument Park. My friends Andy and Bernie had never been there either. That’s where we planned to start our day.

Proud Papa with The Babes, Monument Park, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
Proud Papa with The Babes, Monument Park, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

The idea was to stay for a couple of innings. I didn’t think Nicolas would be interested in anything more, but he didn’t complained or fussed. We left during the Seventh Inning Stretch. The Yankees won that day to make it even more special.

Mostly I remember the pain on my cheeks from that day. I had smiled and laughed and rejoiced for four hours straight. Thinking about it today, with the clarity and judgement that comes with the passage of time, I can say with absolute certainty that, of all of the baseball games that I’ve ever been to in my life, this was the greatest.

The Money Shot. Papa Takes Nicky To His First Baseball Game at "Old" Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York. May, 2006
The Money Shot. Papa Takes Nicky To His First Baseball Game at "Old" Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY. May, 2006

This happened three years ago. Nicolas hasn’t had a recurrence of the spasms. We are making plans to visit the new stadium but finances have to improve first to be able to afford the tickets.

I think Nicolas might be a Yankee fan. Or maybe it’s just a father’s wish. But the way he pays attention to the play by play, at least he seems to share his father’s — and grandfather’s — love of the game.

I couldn’t ask for more. I’m a very lucky man.

— JM