Finding a New Community- in Baseball

The wild ALDS Blue Jays Game Clare mentioned in her post earlier this week marked my (Cathy’s) induction into a new community.   The “baseball fan” community.  This may seem strange to people who know my family well, as they see us as a baseball family.  Both of my children were catchers in elite ball.  They toured the United states, and played in several world series tourneys. They trained year round.  My husband was a coach and scout.   For twelve years, every weekend during the official season I attended a baseball tournament in some city or other.  As the dutiful and loving wife and mother, I was ever supportive: cheering in the rain, patching their injuries; cursing poor sportsmanship, and; washing smelly baseball socks in hotel laundry mats in the dead of night.  Even today, with my children well into adulthood, my son coaches a rep team; my daughter plays on several adult softball teams; my husband is a rep pitching coach;  and I still attend some games. But it has always been their passion, not mine.  I was, and am, an artsy.  To their chagrin  I still occasionally refer to their uniforms as costumes and their practices as rehearsals.

This all changed this past season and Wednesday was the culminating event.  This year, I decided to be an “insider.”  I worked hard at not watching, but belonging.  I wanted to have a team .  I learned the names of all of the Jays players and their positions.  I learned about them as people, and watched specials about their lives and how many obstacles they had to overcome to get to wear a Jays cap.   I picked a favourite player, Jose Bautista, and proudly wore his name and number on the back of my new T-shirt.  I even wore a cap. Strangely,  I felt akin to complete strangers who also wore Bautista garb.   I quickly learned that I could cheer and sing, wave towels and even dance in the street after a game in Toronto, and it was smiled upon.  (As an artsy I would have willingly  done this anytime, but my husband would not have necessarily smiled!).  I even found a vendor outside of the Rogers Center who served gluten-free wieners, and brought my own bun so I could eat hot dogs like everyone else.  I learned it is work to belong to a new community- any community- but you have to really want it.

On Wednesday I watched the game at home with my husband and found myself  on the edge of my seat.  I was so tense!  I waved a towel to support my pitchers; Stroman, Sanchez, and Osuna.  I found myself yelling in protest in the 7th inning when  Toronto catcher Russell Martin’s return throw to the mound hit Choo’s bat and Odor raced home.  I shouted and danced when my man, Bautista, hit that remarkable home run.

As I reflect on this now, I have to laugh.  I actually know these players’ names.  I am emotionally involved in people I don’t even know.  I have acquired a new language, and a different way to communicate with people .  I can and want to discuss the plays, highlights, and quirks of the game.  I was texting friends and family throughout the game- about the game.  My son was lucky enough to be at the game and I waited up for him so I could talk to him about it- actually needed to talk about it!

I feel like I am part of something. It was worth the effort.  I suspect I still may slip up and refer to practices as rehearsals, but that is okay.  My literacy research informs me we belong to many communities and foster many identities.  I am no longer just the artsy and the baseball mom and wife. I am a FAN.jays game             My husband and I on our way to a game with my new-found community.

About Dr. Cathy Miyata

Cathy Miyata is a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University. She is also an acclaimed storyteller and writer. She has performed and lectured in Serbia, Japan, Malaysia, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Mexico, the United States, Egypt, and across Canada

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