Monday, July 23, 2012

Family Baseball

Heat waves crush the nation, the Euro continues its perilous fall, Romney and Obama don battle armor for the fall campaign, but Baseball and Family life blithely march hand-in-hand through the gauzy portals of mind and memory. Proof of this enduring truth came anew when my partner Katie, son Lucas and I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge into the timeless realm of minor baseball in San Rafael, California. 
The occasion was a Saturday evening game between the San Rafael Pacifics and Sonoma Grapes in the reconstituted North American Baseball League. Where else could we find a league with teams from Maui and Hilo, Hawaii, Edinburgh and San Angelo, Texas, and neighborhood Marin and Sonoma Counties of California?  Nowhere else but here.  The North American Baseball League is the brainstorm of former Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giant executive Mike Shapiro and partners.
The North American League is an independent league, with former major leaguers and major league wanna-be's still reaching for the brass ring along with a coterie of eager young men with that unmistakable gleam of ambition in their eyes.  And it's all a wonderful family-oriented affair. The night we watched the Grapes crush the Pacifics under a warm, breezy east Marin night, kids wandered the stadium looking for autographs and friendly concession stands.  In between innings the hosting team conducted various kid-friendly activities such as musical chairs, a hotdog-eating contest, and a jousting match involving the Pacifics' six-foot avian mascot, Sir Francis the Drake (the main road through San Rafael is named Sir Francis Drake, named for the British admiral who discovered this beautiful coast for England). Mike Shapiro's wife, Jane, dished out her signature "Skyline Chili" while her teenage son, Jackson, tended to other customers at the concession booth. 
It was a lovely night of baseball, family and Americana. But just don't take my word for it.  Check out the Pacifics' website. Click on "Fan Zone" and find numerous camps, clinics and community events for kids and the family, including "Little League Night," when kids wearing their local team's Little League uniforms get into the game for half price. 
There's a wonderful sweetness and moral clarity to minor league baseball. The flag flies, bats hit balls, and ambitions soar over outfield walls plastered with ads from local orthodontists, delis and car repair shops.  You don't have to wait for election day to find the political wellspring of our democratic communities. Just plunk down a ten spot and ease your way through the turnstile of a minor league ballpark like the San Rafael Pacifics' Albert Park. 
Tell 'em Lefty Gillenkirk sent you.