I had forgotten everything I liked about baseball, or maybe I had just tucked it away for the last 6 1/2 years. Everything changed the day my son was killed in Iraq on May 30, 2004 and baseball just wasn't that important after that day.
Ken was my baseball buddy as he grew up. As a single mom, I was the scorekeeper or the team mom during his Little League days. Ironically, Ken chose the Los Angeles Dodgers as his team even though I was a San Francisco Giants fan. God knows how he made that decision, but maybe he came by it naturally. My brother, Tim and my sister, Shannon are Dodger's fans. My grandfather was a Giants fan and I found it hard to believe that I was raising a Dodgers fan. It caused some amount of friendly tension as we attended Giants games.
Ken and I attended lots of Giants games with our circle of baseball friends, mostly at Candlestick Park. There were the Padres, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds and the Mets, but the most memories came from Dodger games. Gary, Mary, Mike and Celeste were the core group and they saw Ken grow up over the years at so many tailgate parties Those were the days. Ken and I had Giants season tickets for a couple of years and one year we flew to San Diego for a baseball weekend with tickets courtesy of one of the owners who was a high school friend of mine. For that trip we sat in the owner's box and also in the owner's seats right behind home plate. It was nice to see how the other half lived.
To say baseball was an important part of my son's and my life would be a fair statement. When Ken joined the Army, I lost my baseball date, but I continued to attend games with friends and watched the Giants play on TV. When Ken came home on leave from the military, we would attend games as his schedule allowed. If he wasn't physically in California, we would often watch games on TV while talking on the phone, life was good.
When Ken left for Iraq in May of 2003, I knew he would miss the whole baseball season that year, but that was the least of my worries. I also knew that we would celebrate his return by attending a game or two when he came home from his deployment. Of course, it didn't work out that way and since 2004 I was lucky if I attended one or two baseball games a year. I enjoyed myself and the company of my friends, but it wasn't the same; that baseball magic was gone.
Fast forward to the Giants against the Braves in the playoffs last week. The buzz around the Bay Area was loud enough to capture my attention. I don't know that I would have watched the game/s on tv because I hadn't even attended one game this year and I hadn't a clue who the current players were or what the team dynamics were. One of my friends at work, Carolyn, had an extra ticket and offered it to me, so I jumped at the chance to attend a playoff game. I bought my sunflower seeds and my diet coke, and I was ready. Carolyn filled me in on all the players, and I came up to speed pretty quickly. In a stroke of luck, Mike & Celeste were within shouting distance in the next section over. I can't tell you when that old baseball magic came back, but that night, under the lights at AT&T park in San Francisco, it did and I was happy.
It was bittersweet, of course. Ken should have been there, and he was - in my heart. The Giants lost that night, but it didn't matter; baseball is different in October and I was happy to be there. For the first time in 6 1/2 years, I watched baseball on tv this weekend. We're 1-1 against the Phillies and the Giants are coming back to play on their home turf. I'll be watching those games on tv, too. Go Giants!