While walking down the hallway, out of the corner of my eye, I notice my sons baseball cleats laying on the floor of his bedroom. Immediately I also notice his bats (that’s right, plural) sticking out from the hallway closet. As I push the bag back IN the closet I wonder to myself, “how many times have I asked him to place all of his equipment back in the closet and out of the way?” As I look around at all the baseball “stuff” taking over my home I suddenly realize this is our ninth baseball season.Ninth season!? That doesn’t even include rec ball, fall ball, and every other kind of league play/tournaments he and his father can convince me to let him play. That’s nine seasons of playing ball in the freezing Midwest early spring weather (yup, here in Chicago we play ball in 30 degree weather); hours of rain delays; lightening storm delays; a couple of tornado warnings; snow; heat that had some of us ready to pass out; more hot dogs, nachos and pizza slices than any human should EVER consume; bruises, bang-ups, cuts, scrapes and a vomiting incident or two. Wins that had us celebrating for days and loses that still hurt; team and personal victories; life lessons learned (some the hard way); arguments (mostly parents); and so many cities, that after a while they begin to look alike and you forget where you are. But most importantly, over these last nine seasons I’ve watched a young boy grow up on a field. I’ve watched him learn to be both proud of his achievements yet humble and thankful for his accomplishments. To lose with grace and dignity. I’ve watched him push himself physically, mentally and personally… leaving it all on the field. I’ve seen him step up and be a leader, and step back when necessary. I’ve watched him laugh with the carefree abandon only a child possesses, and hold back tears of pain. I’ve sat (although it killed me) while he has been chewed out; loudly, by coaches, at times deservedly other times, not so much. Ive been witness to his mistakes, some costly. I’ve watched him practice, almost daily, so he can be his best. I’ve watched him give up his personal life, parties, holidays, to play instead. On the field I’ve watched him learn responsibility, to be reliable, to trust his teammates (because a team is only as strong as its weakest player). He’s learned to play hard against his opponents yet be friends with the opposition once the game is over. Over these past nine seasons I’ve watched a quiet, introverted young boy find his voice (so now he’s loud and never shuts up), and confidence. I’ve watched my little boy become a confident teen figuring out his place in the world, and every now and then I catch glimpse of the man he is becoming. Yes, being a baseball “family” has required a lot from both my son and our family; time, treasure, (clean house) and social life. But it has also given so much…I’ve been blessed and witnessed the amazing growth and formation of this young man…all while enjoying Amerca’s favorite pastime.