We often talk about family traditions centered around the holiday season, and many traditions are renewed and created during this time.
However, I want to give a plug to a newer tradition in our family which happens every first weekend in March. Due to the fact that it does get cold and snows in Denver, my family heads down to Phoenix for Spring Training (Cactus League) baseball every year. If you are even a little bit of a fan of baseball, you need to head down to Phoenix once in your life. Yes, you can go to Florida and do the same thing, but the Dodgers don’t play in Florida so to Phoenix we go. This has become such a hit, my parents head down from Ohio and my brother and his family head down from Chicago to join us for a long weekend.
Just last night, my daughter, who is not much of a baseball fan, asked me how many games are we going to and who are going see. My boys have become the pros in getting autographs. We probably have 150 signed baseballs from the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Ichiro Suzuki (future Hall of Famers) to Adam Moore, a player who has just played a couple of games in the major leagues.
We have shared many fun times at these games but my kids talk about 3 instances in particular.
The first year, we arrived at the field early and my boys headed straight to the only player on the field, Adam Moore. He was setting up the bull pen for the day–things you have to do as a “rookie.” They handed him their balls and asked for his autograph. He then spent the next 5-7 minutes talking with my boys about baseball; they were 7 & 5 at the time. In an instant, they were hooked as fans and love to see how Mr. Moore performs each season.
During the same trip, Ichiro Suzuki was warming up around the dugout and my daughter and boys stood all alone down the third base line in left field. All the “autograph pros” stood by the dugout trying to get Ichiro to sign their stuff with no success. My children started to yell his name and when he was done warming up, he went directly to them and signed their balls then walked away. The picture below shows the hoard of people starting to crowd around, trying to get his autograph with my 5 year old. He was only interested in signing the kids’ stuff, but the crowds still came. But we got Ichiro Suzuki’s autograph and it holds a place of honor on the shelf.
And my youngest son’s favorite story happened just last year when a player who-shall-not-be-named (but he did start in center field for the Mariners) hit my son with a baseball while warming up. He overthrew his warm-up partner and drilled my son in the stands. I have never seen a player move so fast or be so apologetic, but then again he did hit my 10 year old with a ball. Plus, after warm-ups, he autographed the ball and gave it personally to my son. Now when my kids make a bad throw, they say, “ Well at least it wasn’t as bad as “the-player-who-shall-not-be-named’s throw!”
Family traditions around the holidays are important and special. However, our Spring Training tradition is just as important. The whole family is together doing what we all like and we are making life-long memories. So, whatever your family’s “thing” is, make an effort and make some memories.