Baumhower: 11 years too many, a lifetime to someWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Mud Hens would love for you to believe that the 2012 Opening Day is April 6, and officially it is. But the real kickoff to the season starts 53 hours earlier. The Detroit Tigers announced in December that the 11-season hiatus was over; they were finally going to renew the most fun rivalry in Toledo sports, and play for the first time at Fifth Third Field. This announcement also proved to my 11-year-old son (who turns 12 on April 9) that I am not a liar, it was not my imagination nor a dream that told him tales of the Tigers playing the Mud Hens.
On April 9, 2002, my son Brady celebrated his second birthday with 12,000 people at the inaugural game at Fifth Third Field. By this date we already knew how gifted and different he was going to be. It was in his eyes, his curiosity, his attention to detail, his lack of words.
We had no idea what it was called, we were just hoping it would go away and he would just act like any other two-year-old. It never did and it never will. A year-and-a-half later, we found out Brady was the one in 110. Like Lord Voldemort in “Harry Potter,” you’ll never see me write the name because it carries a stigma and does not capture the beauty of its gift. Once we understood how different Brady’s brain is, a plan of action was set forth and we got down to the business of understanding “Braden-ese,” the language he spoke.
The true fear of being a parent of a one in 110 child is wondering what will your son’s life become and how will he socially survive at school and in the world: We were determined to do whatever we could to get him “normalized” for school and life.
Every father dreams of playing catch with his son, it’s a rite of passage, an activity that opens lines of communication and a overall great bonding experience. Our game of “catch” began after his fourth birthday, except it was more of a game of “throw.” Brady showed zero interest in catching or throwing the ball, but he had a weakness: He loved money, or the thought he could buy something with it, mainly candy. I made a game of it — $1 for every ball he caught, and he earned $1 for every ball thrown to my mitt. Eventually the money was not needed; he loved the game of baseball and the process gave me a way to talk to him.
One in 110 children are blessed to have a brain that runs at a different speed than the rest of us. The trick to raising such a child is to understand how their “program” works and what their needs are. Once you speak the same language then you can decide what data/information you can input.
The Detroit Tigers proved to be the perfect “data” for my son, with the long season, the daily stats and their relationship with the Toledo Mud Hens. Brady’s love of the sport really took hold when he was introduced to baseball cards. Beautiful action photos on the front, loaded with stats on the back. He would study the cards and commit them to memory. The baseball cards tricked him into reading, something he was not a fan of during kindergarten or first grade. Now, money once being spent on candy was being spent on Topps.
When Magglio Ordonez hit the walk-off home run in the 2006 ALCS, my son had found his Tiger. He would and still does emulate Dan Dickerson’s radio call of “Waaaay back,” as Dan delivered it a full octave higher. Having a speech delay and various pronunciation issues, he challenged himself to say the player’s name correctly, to copy what he heard being discussed. He became more confident while speaking, another life obstacle the game of baseball was helping us with.
Once Brady found his voice, his conversations never stopped. We discuss everything from every Tigers’ World Championship, who my favorite player was, the Curse of the Bambino and the relationship between the Tigers and Mud Hens. I can still recall the shriek of joy he made when he saw Mike Hessman play on a Sunday for Detroit, and that was before he clobbered a 450-foot home run! Being able to see your favorite future Tiger or current rehabbing one may be Toledo’s best known secret.
April 4, my son’s worlds will collide, his dreams will come true. That MLB 2K11 Wii game where he plays the Hens against the Tigers will become a reality. My favorite player Cecil Fielder’s son, Prince, will make his Toledo debut, and the full starting lineup of the Tigers is expected to play. The game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Detroit and MLB.TV, Mario Impemba and Rod Allen will have the play-by-play; a child could not picture it any better.
This last January my dreams came true, as my son’s second quarter grade card put him on the Honor Roll. for the first time. For some students the Honor Roll is expected, even demanded, but for a child who is one in 110 it was a wish granted. The Tigers unknowingly granted a lot of fathers’ wishes by agreeing to come back to Toledo. I know it’s just one game, but it’s been 11 seasons and for some that’s been a lifetime.
Thank you, Joe Napoli and Dave Dombrowski, for not making me a lifetime “liar” and for giving one more lifetime memory.
Follow Jeremy Baumhower on Twitter @jeremytheproduc.