The World Series of Parenting

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">This is Andrew, my younger son, who went to a playoff game, but missed the World Series.  Hey, Phillies.  Win another one, so I can take this guy, too!  -David Murphy (David Murphy and son Andrew at a Phillies game in 2008.)</span></div>
May 7, 2010 7:10:05 AM PDT
Anyone who's been watching the morning show over the past six or seven years knows that I am an insanely avid Phillies fan.

Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not one of those stereotypical, in-your-face, screaming types. They can be so annoying, can't they? No, I'm more of the don't-get-me-started-or-I'll-talk-your-ears-off sort of fan, which is not nearly so boorish. Of course, it's still annoying. At least, that's the way my wife sees it. She'll pass by me camped in front of the TV and casually ask, "How are the Phillies doing?', and 15 minutes later, I will have reported the score, the pitching changes, the hits, which hits were kind of surprising given how this player or that player has been slumping, as well as some interesting back story I read about the son of the third baseman's grandmother, followed by a live play-by-play of a pop-up, and a full explanation of the infield fly rule. My wife, naturally, will have left the room roughly thirty seconds into this monologue.

But can you blame me?

I mean, I started watching the Phillies when I was eleven, suffered through some of worst Philadelphia baseball of the modern era, and endured almost nightly massacres at the hands of barbarians like Bench, Garvey, Stargell, and Gibson. Then, by what seemed like some miraculous, cosmic reversal of the natural order of the universe, the Phillies suddenly bloomed. It happened before my eyes, an uncertain tease at first, but then, night after night, with assuredness.

This was not an illusion. This was redemption, what it felt like, how it tasted. The Phillies were no longer lousy, but lousy with some of the game's greatest players. And, of course, it all came together in 1980 when Schmitty, Lefty, The Secretary of Defense, and Tug, brought it all home. It was honestly one of most exciting things I've ever experienced, and I know there are literally millions of others out there who feel the same way. What a special, special time that was, for all of us.

So naturally, when I started having kids of my own, part of the blue print of parenting for me was to introduce these little people to the grand game of baseball, in hopes of giving them even a snippet of the experience I had so thoroughly enjoyed in my own youth. I picked up a Sunday Season Ticket plan about four hours after the Phillies signed Jim Thome, sensing that there was something in the air, that the timing might be right for some serious passion-building. And slowly but surely, I began the indoctrination. I concentrated mainly on my older son, who was the most receptive of the three. I started taking him on baseball road trips each summer to sweeten the deal. And then, I waited.

Admittedly, luck had a lot to do with what happened next. I mean, let's face it. Had I been living in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee during this time, the lure would've only been so strong, as the teams there would not have offered much more than a chance to get hooked on hot dogs and, maybe, the crack of the bat, the pop of the mitt. But in Philadelphia, as it had been for me in my youth, baseball was just starting to get interesting again. My son and I were there when Kevin Millwood threw his no-hitter. I could've taken a sack of potatoes to the game that day, and it would've gotten excited. For my son, it was like the door to baseball heaven had just begun creaking open. Next, the Phillies started making play-off runs. And my son was hooked.

But the almost unbelievable thing was that at eighteen, not far from the age when I saw my 1980 Phillies go the distance, here was my son sitting on the edge of his seat beside me in 2008, watching play-off games together, and magically, seeing our new millennium brand of baseball players marching all the way to the top.

Over the years, baseball had become a point of contact for my son and me. It's not always easy to talk to teenaged guys, because (as I've tried to explain repeatedly to my wife over the years) guys don't always need to get into things on a particularly deep level. But baseball opened the door to conversation for us, especially on those long road trips together, and my son and I did indeed start talking about almost every subject that came to mind, once introduced to each other's way of conversing through batting averages and ERAs. It was this sport we both loved that taught us how to get a conversation started. There is an absolute correlation that exists between baseball and better relationships between fathers and their baseball-loving kids; of this I have become quite certain.

And by the time my son and I walked into Game 5 of the 2008 Series together (twice, actually---yes, we went to both halves of the rain-delayed, near frozen splash fest), it was every bit the celebration it had been for me twenty-eight years earlier. But in no small way, it was also a celebration of our relationship. The World Series was something neither of us will ever forget, not only because of what happened that night, but because of who we were with.

Of course, the World Series run also got my younger son and older daughter into baseball far more than they had been before. This year, I'm heading back to Game 5 with my younger son, assuming the Series goes that far. Maybe it will be another clinching game. Maybe it won't. Either way, it's another kid who can say his dad took him to the World Series, and I can tell you that he's thrilled about it. Once this Game 5 is in the can, I'll have only one other need.

One more World Series, please, Phillies. My daughter wants to go, too!