Best Of Cog: Baseball Chatter

In one of the first pieces we ever published, WBUR news anchor Sharon Brody hit a home run for Cog.

In "Soundtrack Of The Diamond" (July 5, 2012), Sharon writes about her son's impending departure for college. But missing him, she says, is only part of the story — and anyway, she's been bracing herself "for that punch in the gut since he was knee-high to a near-sighted umpire."

What caught her by surprise was the pang of anticipatory nostalgia for the "chatter":

Just amble by a neighborhood ballpark on a muggy summer night. You’ll hear it: ritualized incantations of unwavering support ... The voices in the dugout rise and dip and overlap and echo. Together they create a chorus of positivity. These are the most beautiful gems of encouragement you can ever imagine boys uttering to each other in public.

She goes on to talk about the solitary nature of the sport, calling it "the blessing and the curse of baseball":

Hitters, pitchers, catchers, fielders — you’re all alone out there in a game of failure.

The attaboys fill the void.

And they fill it with light, not dark. As befits the serene and pastoral nature of the game, the cheering in baseball almost ignores the opponents. Chatter from your teammates is all about you.

Sure, accuse me of reading too much into mere banter on the bench. But isn’t this what we want for our children? Able-bodied or not, athletes or otherwise? Isn’t this what we hope they will learn, and carry with them in life? To develop and express empathy, high spirits, passion and a sense of community? To be surrounded by people doing the same on their behalf? Is this not how we nurture a mensch?

Listen to Brody read the piece on WBUR's Radio Boston:

In this author's update, Brody explains her decision to write about this topic this way:

When it comes to eliciting an emotional response, writing about baseball is almost ... cheating. I mean, it's just too easy. Like flipping a switch: misty eyes and memories. That wasn't my goal, at all, but it's something I learned after this essay appeared. Who knows why exactly, but so many of us find the sights and sounds of baseball — especially youth baseball — heartwarming and maybe even poignant in ways not associated with all those other wonderful sports. Personally, I'm grateful to baseball in part because it helped me develop a sharper sense of humor, trying to remain amused that of all the options available my kids decided to get most involved in an outdoor game with no time limits played in what New Englanders pretend is "spring."

-- S.B. 12/17/12

Readers loved it. The "incantations of unwavering support" spilled over into the comments:

David: ... I loved those endless days. I loved the smell of home plate dirt and mowed grass. I loved my glove and the snap of the ball; the crack of the bat. I loved my friends and our soundtrack.

Elaine Becker: My boy went to a Div. I baseball program and played for four years. Parents regularly flew across the country to attend games. We became pals and all shared in the drama and occasional exhilaration of collegiate play. Now our guy is 23 years old and baseball is over. But we have terrific memories of it forever. Go for it!

Barbara Nath: You go, girl. You have said it all, so perfectly. And you have captured the eternal sweetness of our boys all focused on the same goal, helping each other, always hoping for the best, and playing the game.

Joelle Hochman: Wow, this brought tears to my eyes in the middle of a workday--so poignant and well-written. As the mom of a daughter it's a lovely peak into the 'other side!'

You can read the original piece here.

This program aired on December 21, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.


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