I went to a baseball game after my father’s funeral. I also went to one after finding out about my mother’s brain cancer.
It was selfish and heartless. I felt guilty before and embarrassed after, but for nine innings I felt only the game. That’s the way it’s always been between baseball and me.
It was my friend when I didn’t have any others. And it has always been there to talk or listen or simply to watch.
Baseball helps me forget and it makes me remember. That’s why it was exactly what I needed on the worst days of my life.
But there were no games when a doctor told me that I had cancer. The neighborhood was out of baseball on that cold November day. No one was playing at Franz Sigel Park or John Mullaly Park. And there wasn’t even a game of catch in Joyce Kilmer Park. The last game at the old Yankee Stadium was long gone and Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium was long off.
So I went home and wished for one of those summer days when I was a kid and my mother would send me to the ballpark with a paper sack stuffed with her famous tuna-fish sandwiches. That was back when you could slip through a delivery gate with the beer kegs and watch batting practice. And it was always okay to come home late with a beat-up scorecard and popcorn stuck between your teeth.
The doctor told me that tomorrow’s surgery and chemotherapy treatment might keep me in the hospital for 10 days.
“At least it’s December,” I said. “There aren’t any ballgames to miss.”
And I will be ready to slip through a delivery gate with the beer kegs when the new Yankee Stadium opens. I’ll watch batting practice with one of my mother’s famous tuna-fish sandwiches and come home late with a beat-up scorecard and popcorn stuck between my teeth.
Cancer can’t change the way it will always be between baseball and me.