Some loves are steady; some take you on a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. We Nationals fans knew it would be a thrill ride, one that ended abruptly as we watched our team lose another playoff series last night. We’re feeling worn and raw right now. But we’ll be back. I know because two years ago I wrote about what it is to be a family both heartbroken and in love with baseball. The words give me comfort. Just give us time.
We were there, at the Nationals-Cardinals game on the infamous night of Friday October 12, 2012. The game we had, then lost to a St. Louis team that wouldn’t quit. My husband and I came home to one exhausted babysitter and two wide-awake children, one heartbroken over the loss and one in the grips of a stomach bug. It was not pretty. It was pretty depressing in fact.
But time is the great healer, and I’ve been able to reflect on what baseball has met for my family. We’ve been with this team since they were re-introduced to Washington and we purchased a share of season tickets with a group of friends. In the early days we dragged a toddler and a pre-schooler to the afternoon games; night games were adult-only dates. Our first games with the kids were tough for baseball purists like my husband and I; lots of snacks, coloring books and early leave-times. Our daughter’s first Nat’s hat was pink with rhinestones. (They shouldn’t be allowed to make or sell that hat.)
And then a couple of years ago, things started to change. The kids put down the books and picked favorite players. They tried to out-shout the Phillies fans. They cared as much about the game as the presidents’ race and Screech sightings.
And this year… this year was magic. My eleven year-old daughter and my nine-year-old begged to go to games early to catch batting practice. Date night this summer was one mother-son game and one father-daughter game. Otherwise we almost always went together. At home we poured over box scores and stats; we spent summer nights in front of the television up too late, cheering on our team. Our daughter kept score at the games; our son brought his glove and haggled for autographs.
All four of us were in the stands on October 1, the magical night where we lost the game but won the division. We hugged, we yelled, we celebrated with everyone around us, even the head-shaking Phillies fans (it’s fun to watch their numbers decline as more locals get on the bandwagon). The kids made the late night news. I even caught a fly ball for them in batting practice.
And that night, together with all the other nights spent with these Nationals, with Zim and Gio and Davey and the guys – that is what I choose to remember about the season.
This summer was a gift to my family. It was the summer where sibling rivalry was put aside in the name of baseball rivalries, where our family enjoyed an all-American past-time together. It will always be the summer where we lived, breathed, celebrated and yes, even shed some tears over the great sport that is baseball. The summer where we did so as a family.
And while the end was tough, kids are resilient. My son will proudly wear his long-planned Jayson Werth costume on Halloween. They’ll both sport their Nat hats and their Nat shirts and hold onto those October 1 tickets. And all of us will get antsy in March, waiting for that magical spring day in April when the season starts anew and our family can do it all over again.
From the O’Keefe family to the Nationals family: thank you, and see you next year.