Today is a special yet somber day for me. It's my late grandfather's birthday and this year marks ten years since he's been gone. It's always hard when a loved one passes away, but for me I'm reminded of it every year around this time when baseball and spring training are ramping up. You see, my grandfather is a huge reason why I'm such a massive baseball fan. I wrote about it at length in my book A Win For Every Stitch, which I also dedicated to him, but for anyone who hasn't read the book he was quite simply not only my grandfather but he was my buddy. He was a massive Yankees fan due to his being born and raised in the Bronx, but even though he loved his team he was also just a huge fan of the game. Some of my earliest baseball memories are of watching games with him in the den of my grandparents house and listening to him talk about the old Yankees teams he'd seen. I learned a lot about the game and its history from my grandfather (as well as some choice phrases for those frustrating moments as a fan!). He always asked me how my baseball teams were doing when I played and any time he and my grandmother were visiting us, he'd come to the ball field to watch my games. Even when I played in college, he'd ask how I did and if my team won, just like he'd done when I was younger. Being a Red Sox fan, there was always a lot of good-natured ribbing between the two of us especially since his Yankees tended to win more often than not. The Red Sox crushing defeat in the 2003 ALCS was avenged by their stunning comeback in the 2004 ALCS and I'll never forget my grandfather marveling at it. He tipped his cap to Boston...I remember his words were "they finally beat the Yankees when it mattered!" He was happy to see the Sox finally win the World Series that year, although I've never been sure if he was happy for the team or just to see me so thrilled. (He always did say since he lived in New England, his second favorite team was the Red Sox, but never when they were playing the Yankees!).
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Baseball was a huge part of our relationship. Every time I was over at my grandparent's house during the season, I could find him in his den watching a game. I spent countless hours sitting in there with him watching baseball and talking about all sorts of things. Not just the game, but about family, what was going on in my life, stories from his long life, and anything else. He'd pass me contraband cookies and Hershey kisses and my grandmother would bring in whatever yummy Greek dessert or food (like her legendary meatballs) that she'd made so we wouldn't have to miss a pitch. Those times over the years are some of my fondest memories. I remember one of the last times I spent time with him before he died: it was October 2008 and we talked about how the Red Sox looked like they might repeat as World Series champs (they'd eventually lose a tough ALCS to the Rays in seven games). It was one of the last moments between us before he died and, along with a photo of the two of us from that day, is one of my most treasured memories of him. Baseball was a huge part of our relationship and I'm comforted by the fact that every game I watch reminds me of him in some small way. I know he'd absolutely love to watch my son and daughters play baseball and softball the way he watched me (only my oldest two girls knew him and they were young when he died). He'd be amazed to see that the Sox have won two more World Series in the years since 2009, while the Yankees haven't won any. But more than anything, I just wish I could watch one more game with him or call him on the phone to talk about stuff. I know he's watching me from above and still rooting for his Yankees. And don't worry Papou... maybe the Yankees will win another World Series before the Red Sox do! (Just joking!)
If you'd like to read a little bit more about the baseball memories I have of my grandfather as well as about the Red Sox amazing 2018 season, it can all be found in my book A Win For Every Stitch. It's available in paperback and Kindle e-book on Amazon below.