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At my son’s Little League games, I feel my father’s presence all around me

When my son steps up to the plate, it feels like three generations of us are at bat.

Boaz, the writer's son, is up at bat in one of his summer Little League games at Cassidy Baseball Field Complex in Medway.Nick Haddad

I thought I was finished with baseball. The bug I picked up from my father as a kid, first playing Little League in New Hampshire, then following the Red Sox through the years, finally withered on the vine of frenetic adult life.

The big Sox victory in 2004 culminated decades of catching every game on the radio, accompanied by my high priests, Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano. Then my wife and I started our family in 2011, and after I became Daddy to three boys, it was impossible to keep up. Baseball took time; I didn’t have any.

Cut to the summer of ‘22. One of those boys of ours, Boaz, is now 9 years old. He decided to join our town league last year, and this summer became a last-minute add-on to Wayland’s “select” team, playing three tournament games a week against neighboring towns.


Nine-year-olds have a hard time catching balls and an equally hard time throwing them. I figured the games would be tedious. How wrong I was. An innocuous-seeming Little League game, it turns out, can be a revelation, an unpredictable short story that’s at once riveting, leisurely, and a shock.

The games are played at the Cassidy Baseball Field Complex in Medway, mostly in the evenings. This collection of diamonds is a throwback. Exiting your car, it may seem you’re under a spell — that you’ve stepped into 1960. A snack bar glows fluorescently at the hub, staffed by lackadaisical high schoolers selling hot dogs and ice cream. Families cluster the perimeter of the three fields. The kids are by turns silent and loud: hollering, chanting, singing from the dugouts. A sweet breeze courses through the surrounding oaks. The sun sinks. Overhead banks of light flicker up, heightening the drama.

I didn’t expect to come across my father here. He died in 2015, 20 days after my youngest was born. But there he is, the irascible, punishing umpire, keeping count, presiding like a patriarch over the scrum of players and coaches. And there he is once more, one of our coaches standing sentry as third base coach, whispering stern advice into the ear of a boy who has very little idea when to lead, run, steal, slide.


And there he is again, I’m somehow convinced, in the person of my son’s teammate, a hard-nosed, freckled kid who lashes hits and occasionally gets called upon to pitch out of dicey situations, making fast and canny sense of an opponent’s lineup. The essence of each of these kids emerges precisely, piercingly, inside the clarifying ringer that is a baseball diamond. Talent and flaws held in perfect suspension, then tipping out of balance as they face a pitcher alone or knock down a hard grounder, their coaches — all fathers, all ex-jocks — watching intently, vicariously.

Finally, I spot my father in the parents watching behind home plate, caught up in the high stakes of a simple pitch count. And in the way he once tracked my games not from the stands, where people are forced to socialize, but behind the cage in just the place I’m standing now.

Boaz is on deck. He swings at the air, timing each cut with the pitches to the current batter. He’s tenacious in the way I remember myself to be. My blood begins to move as he steps to the plate. Briefly, we catch eyes. He nods, gravely serious.


In this place, my cellphone, my tether, becomes inert — maybe one reason I’ve found such sustaining pleasure in these games. Every bit of attention centers on what unfolds on the field along with the enthralling human circus surrounding it.

Boaz takes his sweet, hard swing. Poised and watching, really watching, I feel my heart climb into my mouth. Suddenly my father’s right there. There in a way I haven’t experienced since he dropped out of sight seven years ago. This time not beside me, but inside.

Ted Weesner is a writer in Wayland. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Tell your story. Email your 650-word essay on a relationship to connections@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.