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Tradition is tradition ... until you start a new one

August 23, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Traditions are some of the great things about sports, but they aren't for everyone.

With the opening of football season, traditions will be stacking up like cord wood. Tailgate parties, a mountaineer firing a musket every time WVU gains a yard and school fight songs are among the ones which will be polished up for the season.

A newer one might be Notre Dame struggling to reach .500 to get a bowl bid.

I tend to get a little queasy when it comes to "Tradition." I know some people who use the idea and term as a mantra for life.

As a kid, one of my family's traditions was to sit around a table, dunking chocolate creme-filled cookies in milk.

We called it the Oreo Way.

Someone else got that tradition, switched it around a little and made it more famous.

That's a little off the subject, but some traditions are made to be broken.

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For as long as I can remember, one tradition has been fathers taking their sons to watch a baseball game together. In fact, it was probably more of a rite of summer and fatherhood than a tradition.

I know I can remember my dad taking me to a couple of games. He enjoyed it, even though it was a bit of an ordeal for him. He hated to go downtown and had only a marginal interest in sports until he realized my choice of careers.

After all these years, it was my turn to pass the torch. But, of course, I couldn't stick to the pattern. I think if I was a salmon, I'd be swimming downstream.

This summer has been my chance to pass along the game of baseball. But instead of marching to the beat of the drum, I slam danced to the crash of the cymbals.

I didn't pass on the rite of passage to my son. I had the honor of nurturing interest in baseball to my stepdaughter, Brianna.

The Hagerstown Suns and Municipal Stadium have become major Bond-o in cementing our relationship.

Over the last couple of years, Brianna would like to go to games. All it took was some Dippin' Dots, a pretzel, some peanuts and a hug from Woolie B. and she was a happy spectator.

This year it was different, though.

Sure, it still took some Dippin' Dots (chocolate chip cookie dough) and peanuts, but she has been different.

Showing the ropes of the game is different with a girl than a boy. Boys wear gloves and imitate the players in the field. They chase after every foul ball, even those that are on the other side of the park, some 847 fans away.

But Brianna is 10. She has an interest in baseball ... but she is also acquiring a growing interest in boys.

And in an odd sort of way, it works.

When we go to games, Brianna grabs the rosters to follow each player as they head to the plate. She looks at each player's age and where they are from. She starts remembering their names and numbers so she can better cheer for them when they make a great play.

Brianna, in between spoonfuls of Dippin' Dots, will ask questions about the game and is starting to understand how to read the scoreboard.

"Why do they hit the ball like that?" is asked on bunts. That's the same question many polished Suns fans ask.

"Why did he run?" Brianna will say, not understanding the idea behind hit-and-run baseball.

Then comes the observation that kind of goes in the face of tradition.

"I really like (insert player's name), because he's cute," Brianna will coo.

Well, you take what you can get sometimes.

Brianna has enjoyed a summer of baseball.

She had the opportunity to meet some of the Suns' players. Now, the 2005 team baseball card set is among her favorite possessions.

She will routinely wear baseball hats. Most of the time, it is a good brace to keep her ponytail bunched together, but still she likes it.

We went to eat at one of the new sports bars in the area during vacation and she positioned herself so she could watch the Orioles and Indians broadcasts at the same time.

She's getting there, because she was enjoying chicken wings and a beverage while watching the games at the same time. She even took in some curling while she was at it.

All she needed was the remote control and I think I would have finally brought her over from the dark side.

My wife JoAnn can't figure it all out. She is a marginal baseball fan and is worried that I'm warping her daughter's senses. At least she hasn't learned how to slouch on the couch with her hand positioned inside her waistband yet.

No matter what happens from here, I will always remember this summer with Brianna. Because I waited so long to get married, I missed out on the chance to have a boy of my own. I am blessed to have the next best thing.

Time has a habit of changing so many things. Relationships crumble. She will get older. She will get new interests - like boys wearing jeans instead of baseball pants. And the time will be coming when it won't be cool to be seen with your parents, let alone a stepdad.

I got a taste of what my dad felt all those years ago. Some of the best traditions are built by improvising.

For me, Brianna stepped in as the pinch hitter for the son I never had in a tradition I might have never experienced.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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