The wild ALDS Blue Jays Game this past Wednesday, marked my induction into a new community. The “baseball fan” community. This may seem strange to people who know my family well, as they see us as a baseball family. Both of my children were catchers in elite ball. They toured the United states, and played in several world series tourneys. They trained year round. My husband was a coach and scout. For twelve years, every weekend during the official season I attended a baseball tournament in some city or other. As the dutiful and loving wife and mother, I was ever supportive: cheering in the rain, patching their injuries; cursing poor sportsmanship, and; washing smelly baseball socks in hotel laundry mats in the dead of night. Even today, with my children well into adulthood, my son coaches a rep team; my daughter plays on several adult softball teams; my husband is a rep pitching coach; and I still attend some games. But it has always been their passion, not mine. I was, and am, an artsy. To their chagrin I still occasionally refer to their uniforms as costumes and their practices as rehearsals.
This all changed this past season and Wednesday was the culminating event. This year, I decided to be an “insider.” I worked hard at not watching, but belonging. I wanted to have a team . I learned the names of all of the Jays players and their positions. I learned about them as people, and watched specials about their lives and how many obstacles they had to overcome to get to wear a Jays cap. I picked a favourite player, Jose Bautista, and proudly wore his name and number on the back of my new T-shirt. I even wore a cap. Strangely, I felt akin to complete strangers who also wore Bautista garb. I quickly learned that I could cheer and sing, wave towels and even dance in the street after a game in Toronto, and it was smiled upon. (As an artsy I would have willingly done this anytime, but my husband would not have necessarily smiled!). I even found a vendor outside of the Rogers Center who served gluten-free wieners, and brought my own bun so I could eat hot dogs like everyone else. I learned it is work to belong to a new community- any community- but you have to really want it.
On Wednesday I watched the game at home with my husband and found myself on the edge of my seat. I was so tense! I waved a towel to support my pitchers; Stroman, Sanchez, and Osuna. I found myself yelling in protest in the 7th inning when Toronto catcher Russell Martin’s return throw to the mound hit Choo’s bat and Odor raced home. I shouted and danced when my man, Bautista, hit that remarkable home run.
As I reflect on this now, I have to laugh. I actually know these players’ names. I am emotionally involved in people I don’t even know. I have acquired a new language, and a different way to communicate with people . I can and want to discuss the plays, highlights, and quirks of the game. I was texting friends and family throughout the game- about the game. My son was lucky enough to be at the game and I waited up for him so I could talk to him about it- actually needed to talk about it!
I feel like I am part of something. It was worth the effort. I suspect I still may slip up and refer to practices as rehearsals, but that is okay. My literacy research informs me we belong to many communities and foster many identities. I am no longer just the artsy and the baseball mom and wife. I am a FAN. My husband and I on our way to a game with my new-found community.