As the 2022 Field of Dreams game opened between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds, the camera found Ken Griffey, Jr, standing among the stalks of corn. He emerges on the field, followed by his father, Ken Griffey. Jr turns to Sr and asks, “Hey Dad, do you want have a catch?” The two proceed to start tossing the ball back and forth to each other.
The moment sparked a deep emotion within me. Even at 43, the memories of playing catch with my dad in the yard are still fresh and vivid. Among all the memories I have with my dad, playing catch feels like the one that is steeped in the most tradition.
Catch at our house was usually in the evening, after dinner. Dad had likely spent a long day, embroiled in adult work life, in his office at his desk, or at conference room tables across from clients. My dad was a sales guy. It wasn’t where his career had started out, but it became the part of his career with the greatest momentum. His sales career afforded us a comfortable life, with plenty of the family style vacations you’d expect from the 1980’s…pack up the car and traverse the country, seeing the kinds of attractions that would capture your imagination from the lobby of a motel, where a rack of brochures about cave tours, alligator farms, scenic by-ways and more would promise a family all the fun that could be imagined during those Reagan years.
The relationship I developed with my dad was accentuated by sports, namely Chicago sports. We spent winters and springs watching the Chicago Bulls chase after the championship title. In the early fall, Sunday afternoons might include a bit of a Chicago Bears game, before nodding off for a quiet nap in the family room between lunch and supper. Our old tube television would glow brightly from day games from Wrigley. The radio in the garage was usually tuned either to NPR or a distant Chicago station to pick up a Cubs game.
My dad was there when I picked out my first baseball cap, a Minnesota Twins cap that featured the “M” logo. I’m sure he would have encouraged me to grab a Cubbies cap at that point, but he understood the mania that surrounded Kirby Puckett.
Through it all, we’d walk out of the garage and snag our ball gloves off a shelf. Dad had an old Spalding glove. He had played on the company’s slow pitch softball team. He used an outfield’s baseball glove and the pocket was deep and big, considering he was fielding softballs with it. I’m almost completely certain mine was a Franklin, but the printed logo had long faded after summer after summer of use and abuse. The wrist band would be slotted through my handlebars for days on end of riding my bike to friends’ houses with the hope that we might play a bit of catch and then tugged off to settle next to my dad’s glove when I returned home.
But, there we would be, at opposite ends of the front yard, tossing the ball back and forth, talking about what had transpired throughout the day and what we had on our minds about the upcoming weekend or the next family vacation.
I was not a great ballplayer, but catch was definitely my speed. I was, however, a good son, and was happy to build those memories with my dad, night after night, hanging out in the front yard tossing the ball back and forth.
To all those parents and their kids out there: Making a memory of playing catch at the Field of Dreams is clearly awesome. But, don’t neglect the impact of those moments in the yard. They will be remembered long after either one of you hang up the glove for the last time.