‘He’s the best baseball player I ever saw’

We went to our last Sounds game of the season Saturday night.

Nashville beat Memphis 6-3. We stayed after the game for fireworks and so Things 1 and 2 could join 1,000 other kids in running the bases.

Before we left the house, I read online that one of our best hitters, a guy named Taylor Green, had been called up from the Triple-A Sounds to join the Milwaukee Brewers, and I remembered the time we went to a late-season game 5 summers ago, and Thing 1’s favorite player wasn’t there.

Corey Hart (photo by majorvols/Flickr)

Thing 1 was only 6 years old, but she’d noticed that Corey Hart would usually get on base if not drive it out of the ballpark, and when he wasn’t there, she noticed.

When we got home, Thing 1 got ready for bed, and I went online to find out what had happened to Corey Hart.

“He’s been called up,” I told her. “He’s gone to play for Milwaukee.”

It was late, Thing 1 was tired, and she started sobbing.

“What’s wrong?”

“I miss him!” she said.

“It’s OK. This is a good thing. The guys who play for Nashville want to play for Milwaukee.”

“When’s he coming back?” she asked.

“Well, unless he gets hurt or something, he probably won’t be back. He’s playing for Milwaukee now.”

Thing 1 began crying harder and said, “I want to send him a letter.”

I thought that was very sweet. “What do you want to say?” I asked.


“OK,” I said. “We can write him a letter in the morning. Time for bed.”

She was still crying a little when I tucked her in. “It’s OK,” I told her. “He’s happy. This is what he wanted.”

She said, “I miss him. He’s the best baseball player I ever saw.”

She was asleep before I could turn out the light.

Spoiling kids is nothing new

Sometimes, when I can’t walk through the house without tripping over a Batmobile or stepping on a Lego, I worry that we may be spoiling the kids, but this weekend, I read something in Readers Digest that made me feel better.

It’s a piece called “Our Overprivileged Children,” and it’s from the February 1939 issue (something my dad found at a flea marketing).

It made me feel better because I realized spoiling kids is nothing new.

The essay, by a child psychologist with the city of New York’s Child Adjustment and School Service Division, scolded the parents of 72 years ago for giving into their children’s every whim.

“They surround them with possessions which they themselves were denied in their own youth,” the psychologist wrote:

“One father I know presented his 10-year-old boy with an expensive movie camera before the child had expressed any desire for it or mastered the elements of photography. Another parent gave his 9-year-old son a costly airplane model powered by a miniature gas engine. On its first flight the machine was wrecked.”

It’s like the digital camera my wife’s parents gave Thing 1 for Christmas. It’s a nice camera, better than our 6-year-old camera. Thing 1 took it with her when we went to a Nashville Sounds game last weekend. I carried it for safekeeping, but after I’d taken a few pictures with it, she insisted on holding it herself. It was her camera, and I was wasting pictures, so she’d hold it.

Thing 1 and Thing 2, before the game.

She’d had it maybe 5 minutes before she dropped it onto the hard concrete of the bleachers. Luckily, it wasn’t broken, but if she’d bought it with her own money, I’ll bet she’d hold it tighter.

In the essay, the child psychologist says, “I would say to parents, ‘Give more of your own time and interest to your children’s affairs.’ They are quick to appreciate the difference between lavish gifts — hollow things at best — and your companionship, your comradely concern for their pleasures and work,” which is pretty much why I like taking the kids to Sounds games in the first place. We sit, hang out, talk about whatever and eat ice cream out of little plastic baseball helmets.

Giving kids time and companionship is better than giving them more stuff. That was good advice 72 years ago, and it’s true today.

Of course, I still need to train the kids to pick up their toys, especially the Legos, because when walking in the house barefoot, those things hurt.

Lesson in bad parenting: The Flying Squirrels

By the time you read this (assuming anyone is reading it), I’ll be home, but right now, I’m in Richmond, Virginia, where I just spent too much money on four Flying Squirrels T-shirts.

This, sadly, is the kind of thing I do every time I travel on business, no matter how many times I tell myself not to.

In the beginning, the deal was I’d bring the kids a little something the first time I visited a place. The second trip, no present, but I never really stuck to that, because I’m an idiot.

So, Thing 1, the oldest, usually gets a T-shirt, and Thing 2, who’s too young to know what things cost, used to get a single Hot Wheel. (Hot Wheels are about $1 each.)

It’s hard to find Hot Wheels at airport gift shops, though, so I’d swing by Target a few days before I left and pick one up.

Thing 2’s single Hot Wheel, though, eventually became a 5-pack of Matchbox cars (which is only about $5), but then he started asking for Matchbox playsets, and then bigger Matchbox playsets, and because I don’t travel that often, I thought, what the heck. He’s a good kid.

Then, Thing 2 discovered Batman, so then he wanted those Fisher-Price Imaginext action figures and accessories, and I thought, what the heck. He’s a good kid.

So, before I left for this trip, I stopped at Target to pick up the Joker’s hideout — which I justified by telling myself it costs about the same as a T-shirt. I left it in the trunk of the car.

Now, back to those Flying Squirrels.

The Flying Squirrels are Richmond’s brand-new minor league baseball team. They’re the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, and Richmond is nuts about them.

I’m from Nashville, Tennessee, and I thought Nashville liked the Sounds, but that’s a grade-school crush compared to the steamy love affair going on here.

They’re selling Flying Squirrels T-shirts at the airport and Flying Squirrels pennants in the lobby of the hotel. Everyone I’ve talked to here loves the team, and when I mentioned that I wanted to get a Squirrels T-shirt for Thing 1, the folks I was visiting said I just had to stop at the souvenir shop at the ballpark, because it was right up the street, so, that’s where we went.

I picked out a T-shirt for Thing 1 and, because I love minor league baseball, I thought I’d get a T-shirt for me, too, so that’s 2 T-shirts at $20 a pop.

I realized I hadn’t gotten my wife anything on this trip, so I got her a T-shirt, too.

But then I thought Thing 2 might feel bad we had Flying Squirrels T-shirts and he didn’t, so I got him one, too.

My thinking — which, in my defense, was muddled by the fact I got up this morning at 4:30 Nashville time — was that if everyone got a T-shirt, then we’d have parity, and no one would whine, which, let’s face it, is the goal of every parent with young kids.

Only, I’d bad-parented myself into the exact opposite of parity because I’d forgotten about the Joker’s hideout waiting in the trunk of the car back in Nashville (which I shouldn’t have gotten in the first place).

So, Thing 2 has 2 presents, and Thing 1 has 1.

I know what you’re thinking. Save the Joker’s hideout for Christmas or take it back to Target, but Thing 2 was very explicit before I left that he wanted it, and when I called home tonight, he asked what I was bringing him.

“I can’t tell you,” I said, hoping he’d forgotten about the Joker’s hideout.

“OK,” he said. “I don’t care what you bring me, but I really hope it’s the Joker’s hideout.” It sounded vageuly like a threat.

So, I’m going to put the T-shirt away and give it to him later — much later.

Hopefully, he won’t notice that he’s the only one without one.

And when I travel again, no one gets a present, no matter how much I miss them.