First Person: Family Tradition
Flashback to 1997---I attended my first MLB game in the big city, a Mets game at Shea Stadium. The afternoon seemed to go on forever. How much longer? Trying to look at the glass half full; I saw this as a way for me to try several different authentic NYC foods and drinks and some game-day standards available at the stadium. A rationalization my future husband did not understand but gladly enjoyed, because ice cream, soft pretzels, peanuts, Cracker Jack’s and sausage and peppers helped increase this southern girl’s interest level in her new boyfriend's home turf. Little did I know the impact baseball would have on my life.
Flash-forward to present day---this week has the making for one of the best in 2013. During a four-day stretch, I will watch the greatest game in college basketball, UNC-Duke; attend Opening Day of the Diamond Heels season; and then pull a double-header, UVA-UNC hoops followed by game 2 of the Seton Hall series. Individually, the UNC-Duke game, or Diamond Heels Opening Day, bring on excitement rivaling that of Christmas morning in the DiMeo household. Both events so close together make for discussions during dinner, commutes to school, walks around the neighborhood… basically anytime the four of us are together, we are discussing either one or both approaching games. For this is a first in our tradition, both major events are occurring in the same week.
Our family tradition was born on Feb 17th, 2006: my husband, our daughter and son attended our first Diamond Heels Opening Day at Boshamer Stadium. The Heels faced Seton Hall winning 8-3. This tradition has continued over the years no matter the outside elements. We have braved an assortment of February weather from wind, rain, freezing cold (and some shattered bats) and unseasonably warm conditions to attend the first home game of the season.
During that 2006 season, my 2-year-old son, many refer to him as Sticks (and no that is not his real name), asked to celebrate his birthday at a UNC baseball game. Fortunately, the Carolina Kids Club offers a birthday party option in which the birthday child can throw out the first pitch. The freshly minted 3-year old threw out that first pitch in front of a sold out crowd on April 2nd, 2006, as the top 10 Heels faced #1 ranked FSU. After the pitch Sticks looked up at my husband and said, “Daddy I want to do this every year for my birthday.” Lucky for us there has been a home game near his birthday so we have been able to fulfill his wish with friends, family, classmates and teammates cheering him on.
Two years later, I quickly learned my son might have is dad’s looks, but he had my competitiveness. It was 5u Parks & Rec T-ball, and the little Riverdogs player would become extremely frustrated his teammates did not play their position. He would run out to his position only to find another kid in the same place. He would spend a lengthy time explaining why they both could not be there. When the opponent hit the ball, all the Riverdogs would flock to the ball like ants at a picnic except Sticks. He would be at the base calling for the ball. Of course, every player received a trophy.
I quickly started researching a more “real baseball” experience. Days before he was dropped off for his first day of kindergarten, Sticks started playing competitive coach pitch baseball. Many of our friends thought we were crazy. In this game, 3 strikes meant you were out…, something the that made this young boy happy…, happy to know the game was being played the way it was intended.
Thanks to my son, I have a love of baseball. I read the rules before his games--they vary at his age depending where the team is playing. I have learned to score a ball game the old fashion was and with Game Changer. Now Sticks is pitching, so I am learning about balks, pitch counts, infield fly rules, signs, bunting, stealing and so much more. I am thankful I have a patient and understanding teacher, my husband.
Friday at 3:00 p.m. you will find me at the Bosh rain or shine cheering on the Tar Heels while spending time with my family learning more about America’s favorite pastime as the Diamond Heels take on Seton Hall. And the next time I step foot in New York City to watch a baseball game…, it will be to see Sticks and his Rivercats team hit the field this spring.
What special Carolina centered family tradition do you have?