The rec league uniforms came in. We got road grey with navy and white trim and navy hats. A little Yankees-esque which is not a bad thing.
My son asked for number ten and then wanted to know who wore it. I told him about Chris Chambliss and The Scooter. That was good enough for him.
We go through this ritual every season because he chooses a different number each season, seemingly at random. I don’t get it. Numbers used to be sacred. You asked for the same number every year, you knew which kids wore which numbers and you never, ever, asked for someone else’s number.
The second year I played organized baseball I was given 13. I had wanted nine for Graig Nettles, but 13 it was and it stuck. I wore 13 through high school. Every team. Every year.
When I got to college, I switched to 23. It was my first time away from home, and while Donnie Baseball being my favorite player and a first baseman had something to do with it, the switch was more about not wanting to feel like the same little boy anymore. Even if I didn’t think of it in those terms, shedding 13 was symbolic.
Those two numbers meant everything to me. They defined me or at least I thought of them in that way. You could call me “Siegs” or you could call me by my number. Most of the clothing I owned at the time had my number on it. On the field, on the rare occasion my number wasn’t available, if we played a tournament which supplied the uniforms, for example, I was borderline distraught. The number on my back was my version Samson’s hair.
13 and 23 remain tattooed on my brain today. Last year I wore 23 as the coach of my son’s travel team. I was happy none of the players asked for it because I’m not sure they would have gotten it.
Which is why my son’s seeming indifference is perplexing. His first year in t-ball he was given 13 and was thrilled when the answer to the question who wore it was “me.” I hoped 13 would stick but the next year he choose 3 (apparently the thrill wore off) and it’s been a whirlwind of numbers since – seven, two, 20 for the travel team when he could have had literally any number he wanted and this season’s ten. My daughter is no better having also opted for ten after six last year.
I’ve wondered if it’s an attention span issue or perhaps a commitment issue. Maybe choosing a number for life is just too much for a nine-year-old. I’ve wondered if he just doesn’t care about sports which would be fine though I’d like to find out now before I invest another five years of blood, sweat and tears into coaching, schlepping and paying.
Lately, I’ve been wondering if maybe he’s right, if he gets something I never could. Maybe he recognizes jersey numbers are silly trappings and the import placed on them only makes the game seem so much more serious and intimidating than it really is. Maybe he’s figured out the simple beauty is he’s playing baseball. After all, the number on his back isn’t going to make him a better player, and it’s sophomoric to be so attached to what amounts to laundry.
He’s happy playing regardless of the number is on his back. Isn’t that all that matters?