It’s an amazing thing – to watch someone fall in love. When that someone is your own child, it’s even more special.
It was the fall of 1995. My son was seven years old when he fell in love with baseball.
Our family had just moved to the Seattle area. Through the spring and summer, I found it easy to adopt the local team – the Seattle Mariners – as my own, even though at that time, they were perennial losers who had never been to the playoffs. I would listen to games on the radio as I drove home from work and I would watch casually on TV when I was home in the evening. I was captivated by the lyrical descriptions offered by Dave Niehaus, the Mariners lead play-by-play announcer. He made images come alive, he made casual plays seem captivating, and he made exciting plays sound magical.
Late in the summer, the Mariners found themselves in a familiar place – far behind the first place California Angels, trailing by13 games. Surprisingly, they began winning and continued winning through August and September. As they got closer to catching the Angels, it seemed that the entire city became enchanted and enthralled. Each win seemed to come in a special way and, every time, Dave’s descriptions made them even more extraordinary.
Through those months, I noticed that my seven year old son began to pay attention. He started to watch with me and listen with me. We listened to Dave’s calls together. My son and I sat together on the sofa as he slowly but steadily began to develop a love for the Mariners and a love for baseball. Dave’s descriptions were a big part of that process – everything sounded a little more meaningful, a little more charming, and a little more thrilling through his words.
The season itself was magical for the Mariners. Their comeback succeeded – they caught the Angels and defeated them in a one game playoff for the division title. In the post-season, they fell behind the New York Yankees, 2 games to none, before mounting another comeback. They won three straight games, winning the series on a dramatic 11th inning double by Edgar Martinez that marks one of Dave’s most memorable broadcasting calls. Although the Mariners magical season ended before they reached the World Series, it was still the most successful in their history.
All of it was wondrous for me. The Mariners’ success was thrilling, but sharing it with my son (and sharing his newfound excitement) was even more rewarding.
I’ve loved baseball for as long as I can remember. My earliest baseball memory comes from the summer when I was eight years old. The New York Mets, my mother’s favorite team, were lovable losers, much like the Mariners. That year, the Mets made the playoffs for the first time. When our family dog had puppies – we named each of them after Mets players. I became captivated, just as my son did more than 25 years later.
I’m thrilled that my son has developed the same love for baseball that I have. It’s a special bond that we share together.
Dave Niehaus, broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners since their initial game in 1977, died from a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 75. I can’t begin to explain the impact that his death has on Mariners fans, but I know its impact on me.
For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:
Thank you, Dave.
I’ll always be grateful to you for helping my son fall in love with baseball.