I rarely use BRB as a personal diary, so I'm going to ask for your indulgence as I do precisely that for the next several paragraphs on Father's Day.
Thanks to my son (and wife, I guess), I became a father in 2011. I doubled down on that experience (with two kids, not two wives...yet) a couple of years after that, but this story is about my first-born. Well, it will be, anyway. Bear with me.
As much as I bust his chops, I really could not have asked for a better father. Long before I had children, I always said that I'd have a hard time giving my kid(s) a better life than the one my parents gave me. I grew up extraordinarily fortunate, and a hefty portion of those good circumstances were due to my dad working hard and providing for his family. Now, as an adult, I'm lucky to be one of those guys that considers his father to be one of his friends.
Sports played a sizable role in my upbringing. Playing them, watching them, just being around them...I loved all of it, and a big reason for my infatuation with sports is due to my dad's love of sports. He coached me (not well, mind you; our teams were almost uniformly awful), took me to games, watched them with me on television, talked about them with me, taught me about players he watched growing up. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around he and I going to stadiums, both local and out of state, for various games. Rockets-Bulls. Oilers-Steelers. Astros-Whoever. The Big East Basketball Tournament. Katy-Taylor. The KISD Classic. Other random events. I remember far more than I might have thought I would.
Fast forward with me a bit: When I found out my wife was with child, I really, really, REALLY wanted a son. Putting aside my abject terror at being charged with raising a girl, I wanted a boy I could bond with over sports like my dad and I did. Lo and behold, after electing not to find out the gender ahead of time (thanks in part to a conversation I had with MDC who, when confronted with the same quandary, told me he decided he wanted it to be a surprise on the basis of figuring--and I'm paraphrasing a bit here--that the gender of his child would likely be the last good surprise his kid ever gave him, as everything after that would be something to the effect of, "Dad, I failed algebra," or "Dad, I wrecked the car," or "Dad, I'm in a Paraguayan prison"), my first-born was in fact a lad.
Since then, I've tried to balance my eagerness to expose my son to sports and the subsequent fanaticism for same with a desire to simply let him be a kid. It's been tough at times, of course. I'd much rather watch a crappy college football game than two episodes of "Super Why" on a Saturday afternoon after nap time, but such is life. I want my kids to be happy; if that means I don't get what I want when I want it, so be it.
Still, I always thought about taking my son to a game. In my head, I figured five years old would be a good compromise as to when he could go with me to his first game. He wouldn't be old enough to grasp many, if any, of the nuances, but he might be old enough at that point to make it through most (all?) of a game. Selfishly, I figured I'd take him to an Astros game first. Because if we had to bail early, it wouldn't be as big of a bust; baseball tickets aren't in the same stratosphere cost-wise as Texans or Rockets tickets are.
Nevertheless, I caved a bit. Along with a cousin and his family, my wife and I took our kids to a high school football game (involving Katy High School, naturally) last year; my son was three at the time It was on a Friday night, which meant it would run past the kids' bedtime, so I was just hoping to make it to halftime. We did. Barely.
Then a funny thing happened. My son started asking me about sports. We'd watch bits and pieces of football games. He'd jump onto my lap on the couch and he'd focus in for a few minutes of a Rockets game. Not much, but it was something. I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, I needed to adjust the timeline. He was starting to want to watch sports. Well, not really wanting to watch, but not insisting on watching something else. That was progress.
As I was waging this internal war, Fate took the decision out of my hands. Shortly after the Rockets' season ended, Carlos Correa got called up.
The best Astros prospect in who knows how long is about to make his debut at Minute Maid Park. Why shouldn't my son do the same? Think of the story we'd be able to tell in the years to come! My son's first game would be Correa's first (home) game. Kismet.
I wasn't going to fight Fate or the prospect of a great story. I decided my son and I would be at Minute Maid for Carlos Correa's first home game. I hoped my dad would join us; unfortunately, he and my mother had committed to dinner with my sister and her husband that night, so we'd have to settle for a father-son memory instead of a tri-generation legend.
After I bought the tickets, I asked my son if he wanted to go to a baseball game with me. His eyes lit up. He grinned. He said yes. We talked about it incessantly over the next few days. He and Daddy were going to a baseball game. Mommy and his sister were not.
"It's just going to be you and me, Dad. We're going to the baseball game."
I teared up almost every time he said it.
Game day arrived. My son got a haircut at our barber shop first that afternoon. Lest I get too emotional about our impending father-son sports experience, he was just as excited about that and the lollipop that followed as he was the baseball game.
On the drive to the ballpark, we talked. I explained that the Astros were playing the Seattle Mariners, and that Carlos Correa was playing his first game in Houston, just like my son was going to his first game. That quickly led to him deciding Carlos Correa was his favorite player.
We talked about lineups. And jersey numbers.
"Carlos Correa wears No. 1, Dad. He's my favorite player."
"Jose Altuve wears No. 27, Dad."
"Chris Carter wears No. 23."
We talked about pitching matchups. I explained that Felix Hernandez was a stud. So good, in fact, that his name was King Felix.
"That's a silly name, Dad. He's not a king."
The kid was right. At least that night, anyway. More on that in a bit.
We got to the ballpark. We stopped at the statues of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. I told him who they were, and I took a couple of pictures of my son in front of the statues.
We walked inside. We went to the team store. My son, dissatisfied with his current Astros jersey, picked out a new shirt and hat. He insisted on immediately changing into them. I acquiesced, because I am a sucker.
We walked down to the field level, behind the dugout. He wanted to run onto the field and play. He was furious when I explained that wasn't permitted.
"But...but...but...what about when the players are done? Then can I run down there?"
We moved back up to our seats on the third base line. Dinner time. Pizza, and then ice cream, a portion of the latter adorning his shorts for the rest of the night. I didn't care.
"I need a napkin, Dad. I made a little mess. It's okay. It's just a little mess."
National anthem. I told him to take his hat off and showed him how to put it over his heart. He did it. I found myself getting emotional again. I'm so soft it's embarrassing.
The game starts. Three up, three down for Brett Oberholtzer. Astros up. The home team proceeds to hang eight (8!) runs on "King Felix" before the Mariners pull their ace with only one out in the first inning. Correa struck out in his first at bat that night, but my son got to see two home runs (which meant two train movements above the Crawford Boxes) and eight runs scored in a single half-inning in his first baseball game.
We quickly settled into a routine. With every big hit, he'd stand up, and I'd lift him onto his seat so he was standing on it. He'd clap. We'd high-five. And then, to my surprise, he finished every celebration with a hug. He'd just grab his old man and squeeze. Just thinking about it now, I'm choking up, so you can imagine how I reacted in real-time.
"The Astros had lost seven straight before tonight, Goofy. Now they've scored eight runs in the first inning. Are you good luck?"
"Yeah, Dad. I guess I'm pretty good luck."
Eventually, the first inning ended. The Mariners didn't score in the second. But you know who did? The Houston Astros. How? On a Carlos Correa home run. I have a clear recollection of watching the ball leave the bat, knowing it was gone, and quickly turning to my right to see my son. He was smiling. He immediately got out of his seat. I picked him up so he was standing on the seat. He clapped. He gave me a high-five. And then he gave me a hug.
"Who just hit that home run, Monster?"
"Carlos Correa! He hit that ball far! That was a good hit, Dad!"
Highlights of the rest of the game, the box score of which can be found here, from my perspective:
-No matter what he does during the rest of his time in an Astros uniform, Colby Rasmus shall forever be my son's nemesis because he grounded into a double play immediately before Correa went yard in the second inning.
"Colby Rasmus had a bad hit, Dad."
-Explaining to my son the fan's conundrum when it comes to fantasy sports, as I have Nelson Cruz on my fantasy baseball team.
"So we don't want him to get out?"
-Watching him devour the vast majority of the popcorn my buddy bought for his pregnant wife.
"I just love popcorn, Dad."
-My son told me he was tired in the bottom half of the sixth inning. We decided we would leave after that. But Correa was on deck when the inning ended.
"Alright, Goofy. Time to go."
"But I want to watch Carlos Correa hit. Let's stay for that."
Well, twist my arm, then.
-We left after the seventh inning. On our way out, he insisted on going back by the Bagwell and Biggio statues. I have some incredible video of him running from Bagwell to Biggio that I'll play before his induction at Cooperstown one day.
When we got home, I was a wreck. Far more moved than I ever thought I'd be. I guess it was a bigger deal to me than it was to my son, because he autographed his ticket and wrote the final score--"Astros 01 (sic), Mariners 0"--on it for me without flinching.
It's rare to be in a moment and realize how special it is while it's happening. It's even rarer to have the chance to literally frame a reminder of that moment to hang on your wall. I have the opportunity to do just that, and I have my father to thank for it. Like many fathers before him, he passed on his love of sports to his son, and it now appears that I'm well on my way to doing the same with mine. I wouldn't have it any other way.
continue start sobbing, I'm going to wrap this post up. I featured this song/video last year, and I'm going to do it again because I still dig it.
If you want to share a favorite memory about your father or your children, regardless of whether they have something to do with the Texans or football, feel free to do so in the Comments. We've done that the last few years (e.g., here, here, and here), and they have provided some of the best things I've ever read on this site. I'd love to keep that tradition going, so do it to it.