September 6, 1995 I flew to Austin, Texas to watch a baseball game on TV with The Lad who was then an undergrad at the University of Texas. The occasion was Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive Major League game, breaking Lou Gehrig's record.
Baseball has been a bond between us.
When the Lad played Little League I rarely missed a game. In McLean, Virginia it was not at all noteworthy to see national leaders - Administration and Congressional, Democrat and Republican - working in the snack bar or helping prepare one of the fields.
I remember leaning on the centerfield fence with the head of the
President's Domestic Policy Council on one side of me and a US Senator on the other, discussing the most important issue of the day: Shouldn't the shortstop (who was about 11-years-old) be playing a couple of steps toward first base with a left-handed batter up?
Over the years the Lad and I had gone to many baseball games in Baltimore; Washington, DC having been shut out of Major League Baseball since before he had been born. One night we saw Ripken make not one error, but two. The Lad was - literally - concerned that we were witnessing early evidence of the end of the world.
One time, when Reed was in his teens, the O's were playing the Yankees in a late season game and the only seats available were, literally, higher than the stadium lights. There were bats flying around feasting on the bugs attracted by the lights.
Reed asked what they were:
"Bats. But, a very special kind of bats," I said. "Baseball bats."
Our relationship has never quite been the same.
We had wanted to be together the night that Ripken broke Gehrig's record. We had dinner in Austin, went to my hotel room, ordered every dessert on the menu from room service, and sobbed in concert as, at the end of the fifth inning (thus making it a regulation game) Cal took a lap around the stadium in acknowledgment of the fact that the fans would not let the game re-start until he had done so.
Nineteen years have now gone by. The Lad has gone from being a college student, to being a member of President George W. Bush's staff, and now the father of two of the world's most beautiful daughters - my granddaughters.
In 2005, after 34 years, baseball came home to Washington. Two different clubs called the Senators had deserted the city, so the current team is called the Nationals which is a double entendre in that they are a National League team, and they represent the Nation's Capital.
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