In one of the most surreal and remarkable farewells in Yankee history, leave it up to Derek Jeter to deliver the dramatic game-winning hit in the Yankees’ 6-5 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles, just minutes after the Yankees had blown a 3-run lead. The air had that chewy sense of hope; here is always call for a miracle.
“It’s gonna happen, I told Donald.”
And in one swing of the bat, Jeter slapped his trademark single to right field and there was Jeter, jumping up and down as he rounded first base. This is what baseball can do to the soul: it has the ability to make you believe in spite of all other available evidence anything can happen. It’s the feeling I get now as my Danny Boy completes his little league career; anything can happen – it’s a remarkable farewell.
My son, Daniel, has been playing little league baseball for the Port Washington Legends travel baseball team since he was 9 years old. Just like that, his years of little league baseball have ended and we are off to the “Bigger Boy“ league. As I write, we are completing an almost week long competition at Cooperstown Dreams Park. A competition where we played against some pretty amazing teams. My boy suffered a devastating radius and ulna fracture on June 9th after a fall off playground equipment. We really were not sure if he would be able to play on these fields when we sat in the hospital as the Doctors non- surgically put his bones back together. Just like Jeter in his remarkable farewell there was that chewy sense of hope, that Danny would be back to playing at his best.
The week began on Saturday, teams assembled for the opening ceremony and the procession of the athletes. There were parachute jumpers that dropped from the sky and landed in Little Majors Stadium. Alphabetically, each team entered the stadium to the cheers of family and friends. It truly was an amazing procession to see. The teams dressed in their Cooperstown uniforms of either blue or red and carried their team banner. The National Anthem was sung by none other than Donald Alexander! Yes you got that right, my husband tried out for the job to sing to over 6000 fans and he won! What a great way to start the week. The boys truly loved seeing their coach in center field belting out our nations song.
There was so many great memories made in the days following. This was truly a Disney World for 12/13 year old baseball players. The experience of this tournament will provide the players and their families with many treasured memories that will last a lifetime. For my Danny Boy not only did he play but he killed TWO homers over the fence in Cooperstown Dream Park and had a few inning back on the mound! In addition Danny was lucky enough to have over TWENTY FIVE family members travel to the fields to watch him play. Nothing beats seeing my Marvelous Marvullo’s (and Himmler’s) on the field all wearing ALEXANDER 77 shirts that my sister had made up, on my birthday chanting “give it a ride Danny give it a ride’” My Gennusa peeps proudly wearing the Alexander shirts as that was the number their Father wore when he played baseball. Aunt Lisa drove to Long Island to watch Danny Boy play in his intermural playoff game on June 9th. She got the call to please go get Christian we were in an ambulance Danny had broken his arm. Aunt Lisa was there in Cooperstown to hug me as he hit a homer on my birthday, his triumphant return to the game he so adores. Who can beat hugging my Godfather Uncle Anthony as my son rocked a homer over the center field fence or watching my Aunt Annie see my boy play for the first time. I am the luckiest woman on earth to have the family I had there this week and I will not soon forget what you all did for me. In dramatic fashion the Legends lost their last game in a 6-6 bottom of the 6th nail biter. When the game was over the kids were super emotional as were the parents and coaches. For many it’s the end of the road for the Legends team as we have known it for all these years. Danny could not stop the tears from flowing down his face. He kept hugging me as I pressed to find out why he could not stop the tears. Finally he looked at me and said “It’s been a long spring for me and I finally made it back and now it’s all over. I am not sure Mommy if I will ever have this much fun again ever in my life.” A couple of other boys came over to console him and I knew this thing, this Legends thing was the real deal and how lucky were we to be a part of this whole thing from the start.
It’s been a remarkable farewell for my Danny Boy and all of our Legends family.
There are a ton of emotions going through me. So many things to be feeling as we usher in the end of our 12U season. Maybe what’s getting me sadder than ever is this is the end of Little League. In the past as each season ended I would say “yay!” Well, sort of “yay!” I’d say no more rushing around to baseball games three to four days a week. No rushing around to and from practice. No deciding between a friend’s Bar Mitzvah or a double header. No more freezing cold nights huddled in blankets on cold metal stands. No more blazing hot afternoon games melting in the hot Long Island sun. You see, every time a season ends, I get a little sad. I enjoy the fresh air, watching our sons play and cheering as loud as I can for the boys I have grown to truly love. But this feels different. To me, it feels like when you see your son and his friends choose colleges. They are in the process of choosing where they will go next and all we have known for the last 6 plus years is gone just like that! So as we have said this fond farewell, here are just some of the few things I will miss about this moment in time.
I’ll miss the sunflower seeds next to Illyse’s lawn chair and seeing what ice cream choice Alisa made for today’s game. I’ll miss endless coffee with Julie and in depth conversations with Deb. I’ll miss Charlie’s endless energy and sitting on the sideline chatting with Sarah and Jen. I’ll miss watching the famous Daniel McVeigh hugs that Irene is so lucky to have and watching Kara smile when she sees her boy on the field. Have you ever really looked at Kara when she watches him? Her smile says so much for the pride she has in her little man. I’ll miss the coaches meetings with my fellow first ladies sharing wine and laughter each time. Wishing I had more seasons with the Koch family but quickly enjoying our chats each game. I mean, who’s not gonna miss sitting with Marina’s mom and seeing her cry tears of joy when she watches her beloved Christopher on the field. I think it’s safe to say we will all miss Pam’s parents-our number one fans! I truly will miss dinners with Mike, group texts and daily conversation. Mike has given so many years to our kids both through the grade coordinator for the intermural league and for the lead manager of our beloved Legends. Joe, Donald, Steve and Mike together have put so much time into our boys’ lives; time that these men could be attending business meetings, working overtime or be out golfing or fishing. They chose to give of their time for our boys, and for that I will be eternally grateful. There is something so special about the way baseball stitches families together. As much as we try to connect with our own families and loved ones, it can be hard to find common ground. You see, that is just another thing I love about our national pastime. I’ve come to believe that it’s not whether the team wins or loses that counts, it’s how you share the game. I wouldn’t have wanted to share these games with anyone other than my Legends family.
Recently Donald and I went to the Yankees v. Mets game in the Bronx, sharing the game with 50,000 + baseball fans. A different kind of baseball family. There were the typical sights and sounds we all have been accustomed to that day. The sound of the machine checking your ticket in. The D train rumbling above. There were the hustlers, the bustlers, the bored cops. The constant up ramps and the huge green field. The hot dogs and bad expensive warm beer. The cat calls. Siddown. Shaddup. Fuheddaboudit. While there is always the allure of the big leagues, I have to say that these years of playing Legends baseball have been some of the best years of my life. I look fondly on those memories and each day, knowing they receive new life with every new 8U tryout.
This is what Legends baseball is to me.
I never meant to fall in love with baseball, but I did. I learned to realize that it does what all good things should do: it creates the possibility of joy.
“This is the last pure place where Americans dream. This is the last great arena, the last green arena, where everybody can learn lessons of life.”
– A. Bartlett Giamatti, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball