Apr 14, 2024

Baseball is Life

Baseball is Life
Photo by Ryan Arnst / Unsplash

By Terrell Halaska Dunn

Baseball is Life 

By Terrell Halaska Dunn 

Last year, Opening Day landed almost exactly one month after the death of my father-in-law, Jerry. People always talk about occasions like the first birthday, or Christmas, after a loved one dies as particularly hard. For my husband David, it was Opening Day. Baseball was a love David shared with his dad, and knowing he would face the season without his father was devastating. This year, Opening Day fell a little more than 5 months after my dad, Bob, died. Likewise, baseball was a love I shared with him, and knowing I will face the season without him is similarly devastating. 

Luckily, baseball is a love my husband and I share with each other. So, together, we are facing the joy and the sadness of this season without either of our fathers. 

Before my husband and I got together, he started a tradition. Rather than buying gifts for Christmas or Father’s Day, he took his parents on a baseball trip each year. After we started dating, he and his family warmly welcomed me into this tradition. Over ten years, the baseball trips included Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, Spring Training in Arizona, and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. For our tenth and final baseball trip with Jerry, we stayed local and went to the new Texas Rangers stadium in Arlington. Most of the Dunn family are in the Ft. Worth area and are big Rangers fans, so we included David’s two sisters and some other members of the extended family. We attended this game as the pandemic was winding down, and as we could all see that Jerry was slowing down. Being together added a poignant element to that game. 

Baseball was an important part of my dad’s life. As a young man, he played minor league ball in the Cincinnati Reds organization. But as a second baseman, he was overshadowed by another up-and-comer named Pete Rose; so after a couple of years, he decided college would be a smarter choice. After he became a father, my dad took me to a ballgame at Wrigley Field on or near my birthday every year. It was time for just the two of us, as it never included my mom or my siblings. We kept it up until I was about 30, and I started to let life get in the way. But then, after my husband and I were married for a few years, we started doing a baseball trip with my dad, too. We went to Camden Yards and Target Field, Spring Training in Florida, and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In 2016, I was able to take him to a Cubs World Series game. It was one of the most magical days I ever shared with my dad.

All of this is background and context. I’ve been thinking a lot about baseball during the past few weeks — about how it has been a thread through my life and David’s that connected each of us to our dads, each of us to our fathers-in-law, and both of us to each other. 

It wasn’t just that we watched games together; our baseball trips and games we attended together gave us quality time. They allowed us to connect in ways we never would have otherwise.

Baseball games are unique in how they create opportunities to interact. Attending them almost forces you to step away from the virtual world and stay in the real one. It’s possible to spend an entire game doom-scrolling, I suppose; but when a player hits a home run, it unfolds slowly enough for you to feel the energy in the crowd grow and erupt. And though MLB keeps trying to speed up the games, the pace still allows for engagement with your friends and neighbors — or your dad. In fact, part of the joy of baseball is commiserating with your seatmates over a blown call or celebrating a well executed double play. 

Baseball teams are also microcosms of the demographic changes happening in America. While there are debates over the level of diversity among ball players (mostly centered around the diversity of American-born players), overall, the numbers are impressive. According to Major League Baseball in 2023

“As of Opening Day, MLB rosters remained among the most diverse in all of professional sports, with 40.34% of overall rosters (including the injured list, suspension and restricted lists) coming from diverse backgrounds — a 2.34% increase from a year earlier.

This included 945 players overall — 59 Black players (6.2%), 285 Latino/Hispanic players (30.2%), 30 Asian players (3.2%), six Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian players (0.53%) and two Native American players (0.21%).”

Players come from every strata of society — college graduates and immigrants, from rural and urban communities. And here’s the key: Boys from every strata who attend games can see themselves as a player on the field. Over the past few years, I also have been observing the crowds at baseball games. I find it thrilling for the sport that the audiences are looking less and less like me. As ball players continue to become more ethnically diverse, the young people watching the games are more diverse as well.  

Would we all be better off if we took in a couple of games every summer?  Would we be more thoughtful and less angry if we spent more time in the sunshine and actually interacting with more people who don’t come from our homogenous bubbles? Would we connect in ways we are slowly forgetting how to do?

I think so. 

Grab your dad if you can, or a friend, and get out to a ballgame this summer.

Terrell Halaska Dunn is an education consultant who lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband David. She firmly believes, as she does every year, that this season the Chicago Cubs will go all the way. 

Subscribe to Tangle

Join 100,000+ people getting Tangle directly to their inbox!