A Baseball Fan Grows Up: A Story
Here’s a story of a home with a special place for a stash of baseball cards and dreams, and a hoped for future of green grass, and bright lights.
Anthony spent his childhood on rookie cards and baseball diamonds. All those memories came flooding back when he found that old box in the attic.
The box was tucked into the corner of the attic, shoved around over the years until it was almost hidden away under the eaves. Anthony had to get onto his knees on the dusty floor to reach it, and even then he bumped his head.
The box was surprisingly heavy for such a small thing, and it was taped shut with care, but there was no marking on it to indicate what it might be. He backed out of the corner, dragging it along behind him, until he could sit up straight on the old floorboards.
He sneezed as he ripped off the tape. He unfolded the flaps. A slow grin began as he stared down at the contents.
“Hello old friends,” he said, his grin growing broader.
Bustin’ packs and crackin’ wax
Anthony reached into the box with a hand that was suddenly a little shaky. The first thing he pulled out was a rookie card; Tony Gwynn. He flipped it over to look at the stats on the back. Tony Gwynn had eventually made the Hall of Fame, but back in 1983 he was just a new kid on the block, the same way Anthony had been when they moved into the new house on Blueberry Street.
He began to flip through the rest of the box, his hands moving faster as he saw the names that he loved most — Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Darryl Strawberry, Harold Baines, and so much more, thousands of cardboard treasures. He closed his eyes and could almost taste the chalky bubble gum that came in those waxy packs, the sugar coating that left a pucker in his mouth for a moment before the good taste showed up.
Dreams of baseball
There was more there in his memory, and it all roared back as the mild sunlight streamed through the single attic window. There was the certainty that he would be one of those players one day, the dreams of a little boy that kept him awake late at night, picturing the perfect green-and-brown diamond in his mind.
There was the feel of the baseball glove when it slipped over his hand, the way it fit just like it should, so that it was an extension of himself and not something ungainly or bothersome. There was the smell of fresh-cut grass, the squeak of the field marker as it laid down the lines, and the sunlight so bright that it hurt his eyes.
And at the end of the day, when he was tired and sweaty and the crack of the bat was still ringing in his ears, he would come back to his room with new packs of baseball cards from the corner store. A handful of quarters bought him the baseball cards and an ice-cold Coca-Cola. The soda bubbles tickled his nose as he busted the packs, saving the gum for later, reading the stats on each card before moving to the next.
It was the perfect end to a perfect summer day.
A baseball fan grows up
Anthony opened his eyes and looked around the attic. His mother had probably packaged up all his baseball cards when he headed off to college and put them in the attic, where they got shoved around by bigger boxes over the years and finally wound up under the eaves. He had already found his old glove, worn to a smooth shine. He had also found a few uniforms, still with their impossible-to-remove grass stains, folded neatly among sheets of tissue paper.
But those baseball cards; those brought his childhood back like nothing else could.
He closed the box with slow reverence, then tucked it under his arm as he made his way toward the attic door. He had done enough for today. The house wouldn’t be sold for another few months, so he had plenty of time to clear out all the things that his parents had accumulated over their lifetime together. For something like this, it was best to take it one day at a time.
A chronicle of a life
In the downstairs hallway, he slowed down and looked at the walls. There was a chronicle of his life: His first school pictures, his first in a baseball uniform, then newspaper clippings from his high school achievements. There was the parchment that made his father cry, the one that announced his college scholarship for – what else?- baseball.
At the end of the hallway were more memories, usually more than one to a frame, because the accolades were piling up fast. There was the announcement of signing with his team, the one he loved more than life itself. There was his face, serious and somber, on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
And there was a framed, matted and signed copy of his baseball rookie card.
Rookie comes home
Anthony smiled as he looked at the card. The box under his arm seemed to radiate with a heat of its own, as though it was somehow alive. He thought about the little kids who might have busted open a pack of cards and found his. Did they read all his stats? Did they lay in bed at night and dream about playing on that beautiful field under a crystal-blue sky?
Tonight Anthony would look through all those old cards and relive what it was like to be that kid, so entranced with the possibilities of limitless dreams. Then he would go live it: Next week kicked off a three-game series at home.