February 7, 2016

Pirates rekindle fan's love for baseball

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012 11:29 pm

It’s barely been a month since the San Francisco Giants claimed the title of World Series champions, and I’m already itching for opening day.

But that wouldn’t have been the case 12 months ago.

Back then — and many years prior to that — I was known as the ultimate baseball hater.

Don’t get me wrong. I grew up loving our nation’s pastime. But as I entered my teenage years, my attention span began to dwindle and I found it impossible to sit through an entire game.

Actually, making it past three innings was an arduous chore.

Now, we all know that being a live spectator is a completely different experience than watching from the couch, but the only team that was within a reasonable driving distance from my home was the Milwaukee Brewers.

And for reasons I won’t bore you with here, I did — and still do to this day — absolutely loathe that ball club. So, naturally, I never had any desire to attend a game at Miller Park, which looks more like a robotic airport terminal than a stadium.

As the years progressed, baseball completely fell off my radar and was easily replaced by football and basketball, which no one can argue are more frenetic and fast-moving sports.

It was almost as if baseball was completely erased from my memory.

But that all changed when my family moved to West Virginia at the beginning of this year.

Looking for something to do with my son, Sawyer, on one spring afternoon, I decided to take him up to Pittsburgh to experience his first Major League Baseball game.

I had some reservations, of course, but after reading all the great things about the architecture of PNC Park and the breathtaking view of the city’s skyline from the facility, I was somewhat looking forward to our trip.

And, boy, was I not disappointed.

But more importantly, Sawyer had the time of his life.

We went on Kids Day, which gave him the opportunity to play in the Family Fun Zone before the first pitch and run the bases after the umpire called the final out.

We enjoyed that afternoon so much we made a return visit just a weeks later. But this time we wanted to get closer to the action, so we purchased tickets in the first row of the left field bleachers.

And when the ninth inning eventually rolled around, something special happened that neither of us will ever forget.

After warming up left fielder Alex Presley, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas made eye contact with us and slowly started walking toward the outfield wall. And a few seconds later, he tossed up that very ball to my son.

But little did I know Mr. Rojas created a monster that day.

Sawyer was so excited to obtain an authentic Major League ball from a “baseball guy” that we just had to become regulars at PNC Park.

But I carefully told him that getting a baseball is an extremely rare occurrence and he should never expect to receive one again. Heck, in my 33 years on this planet, that was the only time I even got close to one.

Well, by the time the final game of the season had come and gone, Sawyer ended up with 13 balls. Yes, you read that correctly — 13 balls.

The ways in which he got them varied from game to game. Some were from players, while others came from coaches and ushers. A few of them also were retrieved during batting practice.

You might think the novelty would wear off after collecting so many, but every time Sawyer came into possession of a new one, his face lit up so bright I almost felt compelled to put on sunscreen.

In retrospect, if I would have allowed my previous apathy of baseball to continue to consume me, we would’ve never gone to that first game, and we would’ve missed out on all those memories.

And now that it seems like my life is moving at the speed of light, I have come to appreciate the unhurried approach of the sport.

There’s nothing like relaxing at PNC Park and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of a Major League stadium. It’s the consummate form of catharsis.

For that, I have to thank my son and those kind Pittsburgh Pirates for rekindling my love affair with baseball.

But there’s just one problem: April 1 feels like an eternity away.

Where are Doc Brown and his plutonium-fueled DeLorean when you need them?

Staff writer Adam Tobias can be reached at (304) 626-1404 or atobias@exponent-telegram.com.