PROF. GORDON GREB
With us since 2004.
On Being An Elder
Young Gordon at the plate,
ready to hit one out of the park.
What should a grandparent give as advice to the Young?
By GORDON GREB
When my grandson was nine years old and playing for the As in Little League, he struck out the last three batters in the final game. That was only a few days ago at the end of the season. Since that event went into sports history, Nolan has celebrated his tenth birthday and can hardly wait for baseball season to begin again next spring.
What made the win impressive was that the game was witnessed by some veteran players. The teams coach had brought along several former professional ball players to get their opinions on what he was doing as well as to judge the talent of the kids they saw playing. So, when the cheering was over and awards handed out, the coach named Nolan the best player of the game, called him the Strikeout King and as a token of his victory, handed him the game ball.
From his earliest childhood, this growing, slender, and wide-eyed young kid always loved baseball. Actually, at first it wasnt the game itself but what he saw around it. The first ballpark he ever sat in was the downtown stadium in San Francisco, whose name kept getting changed. It was known as Pac Bell Park in the year 2000, which was before Nolan was born. Then it became SBC Park, by the time he was four years old, and was called AT&T Park after 2006 when the telephone companys last merger took place. So, its name depends on what year were talking about.
While Dad and Mom would discuss the game on their way home, and even his sisters, Hannah and Carmen, might join in talking about what they liked best about the game, what had attracted Nolan wasnt what happened on the field but what he had seen in the waters of San Francisco Bay from his seat high in the stadium. It was the buoys gently bouncing up and down in the bay that first got his attention. That was when he was four years old. So he was naturally headed for science, according to his grandfather, because anyone that young who wondered what made those objects go up and down obviously was destined to become an engineer, physicist, or doctor debating the universal possibilities of Einsteins theory versus that of quantum mechanics.
While nearly everybody in ballpark could have seen what Nolan saw, few if any probably paid any attention to the buoys or the picturesque San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the boats and ships floating in the waters, or the distant view of the hills that lay beyond. But Nolan did. And, when he got home, he collected cardboard boxes from the garage to try to make buoys to experiment with around the house. Later it led him to get more cardboard from grocery stores to build pyramids and towers and other great engineering feats.
But being an All-American boy, he soon wanted to become a baseball player and finally a pitcher. He began practicing throwing the ball at every opportunity until he could replicate everything a good actor would perform in a Shakespeare play. He was able to demonstrate exactly what he had seen on television, the manner in which a pitchers fingers gripped the ball, the way the man on the mound went into his windup and like a well choreographed dancer, slowly lifted his leg, brought the ball to a towering height, and then as if by lightning, let himself, the ball, his arm and his leg go forward so swiftly that the ball went sailing 90 miles per hour straight at the plate.
It was an action Nolan learned to do swiftly and easily as he made each of his throws. Even though his Little League team was named the As and not the Giants by the adult organizers, Nolan was happy at winning for the As in their last game because he thought of himself as the closer, imagining himself like Brian Wilson of the Giants, who was always brought out of the bull pen in the last stages of a game to shut down the opposition and preserve a win for his team.
When Nolan learned that I had played baseball as a kid and saw an old photograph of me poised at the plate ready to hit a homerun, he asked me in great seriousness, Why didnt you play baseball when you grew up, Grandpa?
Its a question not easy to answer. How we happen to end up doing what we do in later years is still a mystery to me. It appears to me that a good number of adults found ways to keep close to the game even when physically they werent able to become champions. Instead they became sports writers, broadcasters, cameramen, and maybe even team owners, investors, or even Little League coaches.
These days when I see my 10-year old grandsons enthusiasm for baseball, it reminds me of myself at that age. Now that Im an elder Im happy that nobody in my day discouraged me from playing ball but let me enjoy it to the fullest when I was young. Something tells me that youth of today will find out for themselves the same thing we did. There are many things to love in this life and if youre lucky you will end up doing the things you loved the most.
So the advice I give to young people like my grandson is not to discourage them from choosing any career they want but to help them have as many opportunities as possible to choose from.
If a child is gifted enough in young life to be a success in sports, then by all means go for it. But youth needs to learn about all lifes possibilities and thats why its wise to help young people expand upon that knowledge and experience by having good schooling. The more they can understand about the world from K-12 to college and graduate school, the better will be their chances to select the thing they love.
You dont need to go to at Harvard, Yale, or Stanford to become a doctor, lawyer, or scientist. But youll know why a pitcher can throw a ball 90 miles an hour and cut the corner at the plate if you do. Sometimes finding the answers in science or understanding the universe can be just as much fun as fanning a batter at the plate.
©2011 by Gordon Greb. The caricature of the author is by the author. The photo is the property of the author. All rights reserved. This column first posted Dec. 5, 2011.
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