Baseball Bubby – Baseball buddy

June 9, 2024

I can’t say for sure it was the first time, but I remember vividly sitting on the couch in the basement one night, tossing you a simple plastic ball. The kind that they fill those ball pits up with. Not too heavy, not too hard, but still a ball none the less. I had tried this before, with less than desired results, but this time was different, this time, YOU CAUGHT IT! Without hesitation, you looked right at me, giggled and threw it back – and my life was quite literally, made.

I remember the day you were born, hearing (and seeing) you were a boy, and I about lost my mind. Call me old fashioned, call me stereotypical, call me assumptious, but the dreams of playing catch with my son started in that moment in a hospital room, holding you in my arms as mom lay resting in the bed. For just a little while, it was just you and me, dreaming of what would someday be, and who you might become. It’s probably something most dads dream of, something we all look forward to, and now, on that summer evening, my dreams were coming true. 

Since that first catch, you and I have been playing ever since. Nerf footballs, soft strike baseballs, even a flat rubber mini ball will do, as little dude and dad have been throwing things back and forth, for years. 12 beautiful years.  

Now though, things appear to be changing. Just a few weeks ago, as we tossed a baseball between the two of us, I noticed my hand starting to hurt as I caught the balls you threw. It seems that pitching camp we sent you to has been paying off. The mood has changed as well. No longer do I worry about you catching the ball as I hurl it towards you – we don’t talk about watching it into your hands or your glove – instead we talk about your day at school, your favorite players on the Brewers, or you learning to throw a changeup. Just like the one life is throwing me.

You don’t need dad for too much anymore. You make your own meals, take your own showers, pick your own clothes, do your own homework, and make your own plans. While I still beat you most of the time at “The Show”- I’m no longer letting you score runs to assure you’ll keep playing against me. Sure, you need a ride to the game, but in four short years, not even that will be true anymore. I always knew at some point you’d grow up, I guess I just didn’t think it would be this soon. You’re a maturing, growing man, not afraid to tell me he’s five foot three, and destined to be taller than me. 

But for all my sulking and sadness over seeing you grow up – and I have to admit it’s quite a bit – there is SO much more pride and gratitude for the person you’ve become. You are so kind, and you treat people with respect. You ask questions that show you’re thinking, about others and about yourself. You care about others, and about what they think of you (in the good ways and the bad), and you work to make sure people can see the interest you have in them as people. You work hard to improve yourself, and put in the effort it takes to become the human you someday hope to be. 

Ezekiel, you make me laugh. You make me cry. You make me smile. You make me roll my eyes and sigh. And if I had any hair left, you’d make me pull that out from time to time as well. I can say with no hesitation and the utmost sincerity, that being your dad (you and your sister’s) is the thing I am the MOST proud of in the history of being me. If I have played any part in the process of who you two are becoming, it is and always will be, the greatest accomplishment of my life. 

At some point, and I honestly can’t say I remember when, your mom and sister started affectionately referring to you as Bubby. Grandma calls you Bubba. I guess I’ve landed more than a few times on “Bud.” To say it was intentional, would be a lie, but I really think it fits. Over the years and as you have grown, I have always believed that we really do get each other. That when I look into your eyes, I can hear your inner voice, and know what you are thinking. More recently, I have felt that you hear and see me as well. Two people who know one another’s struggles, who love the same things and the same people, and who empathize with each other as life throws curveballs our way. No, we’re not the same (and you’ve long since been cooler than me), but there is a symbiosis in our relationship that makes being with you enjoyable and uncomplicated. 

And so nowadays, I sit, and watch my bud, as he plays catch with someone else, and my dreams have shifted just a bit. Instead of dreaming about playing catch in the backyard, I dream of watching you take the mound or step into the box. When I hear the speakers play “Bring ‘em out” – for just a moment I can see a grown man in uniform take the field. Maybe it will never happen. Maybe you’ll be a doctor, or a lawyer, a plumber or an electrician (I hope you know I would be JUST as proud). Heck, maybe you’ll succeed me as Pastor someday soon. But for now you dream of throwing gas and hitting dingers, and I couldn’t be happier you that do. I hope and pray that ALL your dreams come true. 

And so, as you turn 12 years old today, a full dozen years of fabulous – remember that you were once that little boy who caught the plastic ball. See how far you have come, and let it propel you on to greatness. Be inspired by how much a man can grow, and let it push you to your limits and beyond. And when you fail and fall, because you will, know that me and mom will always be waiting to remind you that .300 hitters go to the hall of fame, and that we love you just as you are. Forever and always, no matter what. And then step into the box and hit another homer.

But if you could, just promise me one thing. When you take the field, the first and every time, turn and look for me. See the tears of joy in my eyes. See me beaming, overcome with pride. Hear my voice in your mind as I mouth to you “just take a breath, it’s just a game, remember to have fun.” Know that since the moment you became Ezekiel Aaron Steffen, I have been and always will be your biggest fan. 

Our baseball Bubby. My baseball buddy. 

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