My nine-year-old school lunch buddy Alex and I went to see the Wenatchee Applesox play baseball in its summer collegiate league.
He picked out a small souvenir bat and I bought a program to chart statistics. He wanted an autograph on his bat, so he rushed down to the bull-pen with my pen. It didn’t work on the bat and the player said he needed a sharpie. He asked for permission to get a sharpie from the office and he ultimately returned with an elaborate autograph after he returned the sharpie.
Alex wasn’t interested in my charting. And he didn’t like our seats.
“We probably won’t get a foul ball here,” he said.
We sat on the grass by the bullpen. A double rainbow arched over the night lights.
Soon he was behind the concession hitting peanut shells and small rocks. Then we bought a cardboard paper cup that we wadded into a cup-ball. We took turns pitching and hitting to each other as a gentle rain soaked my program while the players played on.
“I don’t mind the rain,” he said.
Later I leaned against a block wall on the sidelines while Alex climbed up and down it.
“Do you know why I wanted to come to the game?” Alex said. “Because I like to get out of my apartment and be outside under the sky and everything.”
The Applesox took the lead but Alex had run to the front office when he heard an announcement requesting volunteers to clean up the grounds. He stuffed rubbish in a plastic bag and was given a Frisbee for working.
In the top of the ninth with two outs the batter at the plate represented the tying run. He hit a foul ball past third base toward us. I scooped up the grounder with my left hand and gave it to Alex. The batter struck out on the next pitch.
On the way home Alex kept repeating, “Mom really missed it tonight, but she couldn’t come. That was amazing the way you caught the ball. Can I give you the bat? Or the Frisbee?”
Alex consistently wants to give back what I give him, or later give me a gift of equal value, such as a hat. On my last two trips I’ve bought two small souvenir pens and he insists on giving one back to me.
Finally I said, “Tonight was a gift. But you know what you can do? Pass it on. Sixty years from now you take a boy to a ballgame and tell him to pass it on. In 120 years that boy could go to a ballgame with a nine-year old boy.”
He accepted that. I believe he’ll do it.
He’s a remarkable boy. He had the courage to approach adults for a sharpie and autograph. He politely got this 71-year-old off his bleacher seat without his program so we could pitch and hit together. Finally, he had the courtesy to explain why he really enjoyed being there even if he wasn’t as interested in baseball as I was.
Sixty-plus years ago my dad took me to a Chiefs game in Peoria, Illinois. I still picture being outside under the bright lights, reading the colorful ads along the fence and waving a pennant on the way home. My dad probably went to a ballgame with his dad almost a hundred years ago. If Alex passes it on, the tradition could span three centuries.
Those pleasant memories were crushed by news that our democratic nation has decided to supply weapons to Syrian rebels. While I thought about devoting my column to protesting that decision, I read that peoples in the Middle East have experienced western interventions, yet the justifications for wars have been passed on for centuries.
I decided writing a story of passing on the peace over the centuries would be more memorable. So Alex and I edited an earlier draft of this column to show his mother for their permission to share it with photographs.
They gave me approval to pass it on.