Baseball and a father’s love

The finish was china blue pearl and the letters cut in and surrounded by a light gray. On the outside of the two names, two palm trees stood proudly; to the inside, a heart with two wedding rings and the inscription “the two became one: July 30th, 1983.”Looking at my dad’s newly arrived tombstone sends a flood of feelings rushing at me. It reminds me of all that I have lost, all that I have gained and what I wish I could have back, even if for just an hour. With spring right around the corner, the tombstone reminds me of yet another thing: the special bond my father and I had watching Houston Astros’ games.The beginning of this season is rapidly approaching. Pitchers and catchers reported to their respective spring training sites last week and position players will report this week. The first spring training games will begin February 27th. This season will be a bittersweet one for me, more so than any other season that I can think of. As far back as I can remember, my dad and I would watch the Astros’ games together. We were both very devoted to the team and we did not often speak of it, but I think we would both agree that we loved watching the games together. There was no one else that I wanted to watch a game with more than my dad. It is really hard to explain how the game of baseball causes fathers and sons to bond, but it does. The bond was never as evident to me as it was last summer. We were both so devoted to watching the games together that there were times when he would be in the hospital at MD Anderson and I would go down there and catch a Sunday afternoon game with him. I will truly cherish those opportunities that I took to go spend time with him.It was, in part, thanks to our baseball viewing together that led me to the field of sports writing. I can not recall how many times my dad and I would be talking sports, especially baseball, and I would go on and on until he would finally get tired and say, “Shut up, Nathan! I am tired of talking about sports!”Nothing will ever be the same again. As I have found out the hard way, when someone is gone, that is when you realize how much the little things you took for granted really meant to you. For well over a decade, we would root for the good guys, led by the team’s icons Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. I guess in a way it spoiled me. I thought the good times would never end. Now, they have both retired and my beloved father is gone. The night that he came home into hospice care, he turned the television on for the very last time. Can you guess what he watched? He watched an Astros’ game. The look of disgust that was written on his sick face upon seeing the score of another losing effort by the Astros will be one that I never forget. As he was lying in his hospice bed those last days, I availed myself of all the remaining time with him that I possibly could. At one point, I said to my dad, “When you get to Heaven, do me a favor. Talk to God and ask him to help the Astros win a series in the next few years. We both know that He is the only one who can help them now.” My dad was so sick at this point that he could scarcely talk, but he still coughed out a laugh. Judging by the way Ed Wade has overhauled the team this off-season, I think my dad must have told God my request. I fully believe we will win a series in the next few years. Craig Biggio’s last game made me very emotional. Most of the time. sports just make me angry, like when the Yankees win or a receiver drops a pass that hits him square in the numbers. I actually cried during Biggio’s last game. It was tough to watch when Biggio, overcome with emotion, stepped away in his last at-bat to gather himself. Biggio was the last link to my dad and me watching games together, and with his retirement, an era had truly ended.

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