First, allow me to get the requisite introduction out of the way. My name is Mark, and I'm an alc....er, woops, wrong forum. What I meant to say is, I'm an A's fan.
Now that statement, in this locale, seems unwarranted. So perhaps I should restate that: I'm a NEW A's fan.
See, now reading what I just wrote demands one more level of clarification. See it's not that I'm just now becoming a fan of the A's. No, it's that I've just recently become a fan of baseball. If I was 8 or 9, making that statement would be fine. But I'm 38, and apparently a late bloomer.
I've been to A's games before. A long time ago, on a outing with my step-father and uncle. I only remember sitting 3 rows from the top and the nasty sunburn I came home with. Then it was as a chaperone for my son's city league team. A bus full of 8-year-olds, and the memories center around calming and quieting and corraling and wishing desperately that I really did drink alcohol. More recently a year ago working a company event for some important clients and worrying more about the comfort of strangers than the enjoyment of the game; however noble that may sound, I returned only with that same darn sunburn.
I'm a self-professed geek by nature, by hobby and by employment. I never paid any interest to sports, and never followed, favored or fanned a team in any genre. A husband of 17-years and father of two. My oldest is my 14-year old son. I have him and a certain team to thank for my new addiction.
Being a computer nerd, I've always favored the indoors and soft glow of a computer screen. I also readily and reluctantly admit that my son and I have never really connected. Oh sure, I'm there for the scoldings and praise, but we've never had that real father-son connection. I'm sure Doc Freud would draw a link to my never really having a dad around myself, but meh - whatever. The bottom line is I missed a lot of years with my kid because I was more immature than he was.
But something happened. It's usually a negative that turns into a positive in life. The day after Thanksgiving last year, my wife was diagnosed with colon cancer. Neither of us have ever been seriously ill or had a broken bone, and while not the poster-children for healthy lifestyles - we're Americans after all - this was the least expected news. I'll save the details and happily say she's doing great and is 100% cancer-free right now. And in that horrible span of time between then and now, I awoke from my self-induced stupor and realized how much I was missing, how much time I was wasting.
I started looking for things to do with my family. Outings that wouldn't cost a fortune. We went to a local concert, caught a race at the Stockton Speedway. And then I happened across that wonderful commercial of Eric Chavez jumping 30 feet in the air. Silly, yes. But it planted an idea: what about a baseball game? I checked the prices. Reasonable. I made the purchase and surprised the family.
The four of us. Sunday, May 21st, Plaza Club seats....wearing yellow ponchos and wondering what the heck it was doing raining in late May?! Missed the semi-sun and Bonds hit by a day.
But despite that, we chatted with the fans around us that day and realized what an awesome group of people A's fans are! My wife and daughter are trying to learn about the game and we have tickets to go to three more games in June and July.
Perhaps most notably, my son and I connected. We've been hanging out together. Playing catch - which some of you may take for granted or wonder why such a big deal. Believe me; it's a big deal. We watch and listen to the games. We wear A's caps and A's jerseys. He's a Chavez kid, and I'm a Swisher guy...which would have a completely different meaning anywhere but here. The connection has carried over to nearly every part of our lives now. We're closer, not just dad and son, but friends.
Sure, I still have to scold and praise, encourage and reprimand. But I also get to laugh and yell and scream and throw my hands up in exasperation...but rather than at him, it's aimed at the team that has somehow inexplicably entrenched itself and enriched our lives in such a way that I don't really know how to thank them. The team, the fans, everyone.
So there's the long version. The short version is that there's been a new birth of a fan. An A's fan. And I'm happy to say he's potty-trained, 38-years-old.....and pretty damned proud (and yes, sometimes frustrated) of his new team. Hope y'all don't mind if I hang around a while. :)