In the earlier piece about my mom I noted that she became a Cubs fan in 2016 because she knew how much they meant to me. It really was sort of incredible. I mean, my mom has been married to a man who loved baseball for almost 47 years now and to my knowledge as of 2016 she didn’t have a favorite team despite baseball being omnipresent through every spring, summer and fall. To this day she travels around with my dad to his softball games, always watching from her lawn chair by the third- or first-base line.
When my dad was coaching or my brother was playing, those games set the schedule for the family for the summer. But even when those seasons ended the TV was generally tuned to Sunday Night Baseball while we cooked dinner. My dad would turn on a game to check in on when he took a break from yard work. My brother and I picked favorite teams early, but my mom was Switzerland — totally neutral in our baseball fandom battles.
So I really never expected her to pick a team. She’s always cared more about sportsmanship and being a good teammate than loyalty to laundry. In fact, one of my earliest sports memories is attending a Jazz-Suns game with my family where my mom decided to cheer for the Suns because she thought it was abhorrently rude that Utah fans booed them when they came onto the court. After all, they’d come such a long way to play a game.
But as the playoffs started in 2016 some switch flipped for my mom. It probably didn’t hurt that she’d spent 30 plus years listening to her daughter rave about the Cubs, Harry Caray, Ryne Sandberg, Wrigley Field, curses, history and stats. Her and my dad were following almost as closely as I was. They both started sending me text messages at key moments of the game. Those texts were one of my favorite elements of that playoff run. I didn’t really expect it to last, after all, my dad is a lifelong Yankees fan, but as the season started in 2017 there were the messages from my mom: “Javy needs to lay off those pitches out of the zone and take some batting practice.”
They continued in 2018 and 2019. The best days were when I was sitting at work during an afternoon game and she’d text to tell me she was sorry I was working but she’d be sure to keep me up to date on the play-by-play. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was listening to Pat Hughes and already knew exactly what was going on in the game. Her play-by-play text messages are one of the things I miss the most while baseball is on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A couple of weeks ago after I wrote a tribute to my mom on her birthday a few of you commented that there was no way I’d be able to re-raise on that tribute for Mother’s Day. You were absolutely right about that, but today I hope she knows how much I appreciate her baseball texts, her love of Javy Báez, and the connection we share through Cubs baseball.