I stood back and watched as my children waited along the fence seeking Max Scherzer’s autograph. They were crowded in with everyone else, arms raised, holding out baseballs or cards or something else to be signed. Annie, Jack and Charlie had only their printed tickets from Stubhub, not a very special souvenir. But they succeeded and were thrilled.
Our seats, as usual, were considerably more removed from the game: upper deck, down the third base line, where players are recognizable for their position more than anything else. These are the seats we generally afford.
Because it’s the sort of thing fathers do with their children, I struck up a conversation: Which of the players, I asked them, would they want sitting next to them, right now, watching the game? The obvious answer was Miguel Cabrera, but after discussing other possibilities, we agreed on Torii Hunter, based on star quality but also personality: it was easy to imagine having a conversation with him, sitting high up in the stands with empty seats all around us, no one crowding around to compete for his attention.
As we watched the game, I found myself wishing that Torii Hunter was sitting next to me. I would break the ice by telling him that we once ate at the same Cheesecake Factory in Chicago back when he was with the Twins except the waiter told us that he was the backup quarterback for Minnesota and we never realized it was him until we left. And we would laugh. We could talk about baseball and being dads and find other things we had in common, and it wouldn’t be about autographs or fame or anything—except he was still the Tigers’ right fielder and would be rejoining the team. But when he waved from right field like he often does, it wouldn’t be just him waving to the crowd, he’d also be waving to me and acknowledging the time we’d spent together, high up in the stands surrounded by empty seats watching a ballgame together.
I’m only slightly exaggerating.
I was struck by the disparity of those two images: Max Scherzer on the other side of the fence, flanked by security and facing dozens of autograph seekers; and Torii Hunter hanging out next to me in the cheap seats. The first is my default image of God, and to Him I am just one of many needy people holding something out hoping to get his signature so I can take it home as some sort of proof of something. The second, though, might be how He views things: the two of us sitting at a ballgame, surrounded by empty seats and talking about baseball and fatherhood and how evil the Yankees are and Torii Hunter’s near-miraculous catch into the Fenway bullpen.