It’s every father’s dream to see his kids emulate the on-field qualities of his favorite sporting stars, right?
Sometimes, you learn the hard way to be careful what you wish for.
Take may 10-year-old daughter, Grace. She’s a wonderful young lady, and very athletic to boot, with a fierce competitive streak. And she very much reminds me of watching Nomar Garciaparra.
For those not familiar with him, Garciaparra was an all-star shortstop for the Boston Red Sox from 1996 right up until the trading deadline in 2004, when he was sent to the Chicago Cubs. He spent a couple seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and finished his playing career with the Oakland Athletics.
Garciaparra — referred to in Boston as No-mah, if you say it with the accent — was a multi-sport standout in high school, while also maintaining a high GPA. He played college baseball at Georgia Tech, majoring in business administration.
So, emulating a tremendously talented athlete, who also happens to be pretty smart — where’s the downside?
Well, let me tell you about this little quirk in Garciaparra’s game. When headed up to bat, Garciaparra had this habit of fussing with his batting gloves, first one, then the other, then tapping his toes as he stepped into the box. And he didn’t just do it at the start of his at-bat. He did before every pitch he faced. A strike or a ball, whether he swung or not — it was the same ritual in between every pitch, gloves then toes, gloves then toes.
And he was good at working the count, too, which meant that his plate appearances tended to take a while.
Anyway, Grace also has developed her own gloves-and-toes ritual. Watching her, I can certainly empathize with those opposing pitchers, waiting for the action to resume. She goes through her routine every morning, as she gets her coat, hat, gloves and boots on for her walk to school.
She usually puts her gloves on first — she likes them to be tucked under the sleeves of her coat — and she’ll tug on each one several times to make sure it’s just right.
The she’ll put on her coat, at which point she’ll need to gather back her hair. The she’ll zip her coat, always to the very top, never less than that, which usually takes some doing when she’s wearing thick winter gloves. And then she needs to do the Velcro on the storm flap over the zipper. She’ll do it every time, whether it’s storming or not.
After that, she’ll push her hair back two or three more times, so she can put on her hat. After putting on her hat and adjusting it to make sure it’s just right, she’ll push her hair back a couple more times.
Finally, she’ll get to her boots. You’d think boots might go a little quicker, but no. She doesn’t like to put her feet on the floor in the entryway — I guess I can’t blame her for that — so there’s always this series of awkward stretches and hops to reach her boots. You’d think someone who is so meticulous in how she puts her clothes on would be just as careful about taking them off, but you’d be wrong. The boots, instead of being placed neatly within easy reach of the door, are generally kicked off in such a way as to ensure that I trip over them when I come through the door in the evening.
After hopping around to collect her boots, there’s another round of tucking to make sure her pant cuffs are inside her boots, and they’re tucked in evenly all the way around.
Sometimes I try to move the process along by zipping her coat for her, or collecting her boots while she’s working on her gloves. Most of the time, I think I’m just getting in the way of the ritual. My role, clearly expressed in the looks I get when I attempt to help, is to stand back and, every 30 seconds or so, chime in with “You need to be out the door!” or something like that.
All this for a walk to school of just a couple hundred yards.
I’d hoped that with the arrival of spring, we might be able to cut out parts of the routine. However, spring has yet to arrive. Save for a couple of days when she was able to wear sneakers — watching her tie them made me wish we had gotten her slip-ons — it looks like we’re going to be in boots, hats and gloves through the end of the school year.
Of course, we fans loved Garciaparra’s routine because of the results it produced — a career batting average of .313, with 229 homer runs and 936 runs batted in. With numbers like that, we write those annoying habits of as “eccentricities.”
I’m still waiting to see what kind of numbers Grace will put up, figuratively speaking. Until things warm up and we can stop fussing with boots, hats and gloves, that could be a while.
Clarion editor Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.