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October 10, 2019

Ease His Pain

by Mark Jent

It was about 5:00 this afternoon when Harrison walked in our room and said, “Daddy will you come play catch with me?”

In the last couple of weeks he has taken a fascination with wanting to learn to pitch. He toes the rubber from the stretch, leans forward while placing his glove over his mouth and rares back to hurl it as hard as he can. (Fortunately no one has batted against him yet or they might have taken one directly in the buttocks.)

As soon as he asked me that question I cued the Field of Dreams soundtrack in my head as I glanced up at him. For a brief second, even though we were standing in our bedroom, I thought a saw a white farm house and a red barn behind him in the background.

The significance of his question and the timing in which he asked it, wasn’t lost on me. My Dodgers had just been shockingly dismissed from the playoffs last night and I had spent much of the past 24 hours wallowing in my sorrow. It wasn’t the first time they’ve disappointed me, nor will it be the last. It was just the most recent.

I said “Yes, I’d like that,” in the same tone as John Kinsella did on that magical night near the pitcher’s mound as the midwest sun set in the distance. As I proceeded to go get my glove to play catch with my 8 year old son, I pictured a drone would soon be flying over head documenting the moment and a lot of twinkling car lights would be pulling down our driveway any minute as they backed up for miles down Trousdale Drive and Harding Place. 

As we got outside, Harrison grabbed the bucket of balls. Then I looked up and really out of nowhere, it was as if Brooklyn and Zach walked through the center field corn stalks, otherwise known as the row of twig trees and bushes lining our property line between us and our neighbor’s house. Zach grabbed a bat while Brooklyn went and got her softball glove from her one season she played two years ago.

There were no Iowa cornfields in our Crieve Hall neighborhood backyard and we had not drained our life savings to build a baseball diamond on our half-acre plot. (Although in one regard we did go through a lot of life savings to chase this Simply A Fan dream and a lot of people called us crazy, but I digress.) There were not any ghosts wearing flannel pinstripe jerseys from the ‘20s surrounding me, nor did I pull off my catcher’s mask and look towards first base.

The kids have never seen the movie Field of Dreams. To be honest, I’m not sure that I’m ready to watch it with them without two boxes of Kleenex and a pair of sunglasses nearby.

Although they did not fully comprehend it, the kids knew that I had a rough night watching my Dodgers implode the team’s best season in franchise history. The boys were with my parents last night and although we were separated by 50 miles of interstate, Harrison would Facetime me every inning as he watched it in the same living room where I fell in love with baseball myself back in October of ’86. Brooklyn was at home watching it with me on the couch, hanging on with every ounce of hope that the Dodgers would win. Zach, our caboose, was on my Mom’s phone playing games, so I settled for 67% of my kids were aware of my pain.

I love baseball. It’s not the same love I have for my faith, my family or my friends, but whatever that love is that you can describe that is right below those three – that’s my love for the game. I love it so much that I had an idea to build a business around it so I’m chasing hard after that passion, often making a ton of mistakes and not knowing my next steps.

If you’ve known me for five minutes, you know that I bleed Dodger blue. For crying out loud I suggested to Beth that we should name our first born Brooklyn….and she agreed!

After winning a franchise record 106 games during the regular season and being the heavy favorites in the Nationals League, the Dodgers were supposed to make it to their third straight Fall Classic. They won the NL West by 21 games. They hit more home runs than any Dodger team in history. They had an amazing and thrilling 12 walk-off wins. They have a star-studded lineup led by the likely NL MVP, a pitching staff anchored by three Cy Young candidates and the team’s all-time best closer.  

This was supposed to be our year! The drought was supposed to end!

But they lost. They not only lost NLDS Game 5, but they did so in gut-wrenching fashion.

Believe it or not, the Dodgers have never won the World Series since I became a fan in 1991. Sure the ‘88 Gibson fist-pump gives me goosebumps, but I wasn’t bleeding Dodger blue just yet.

If you want to know my thoughts on the meltdown last night, just go google “Dodgers Dave Roberts Bullpen.” Whatever you find to read on the world wide web is probably in line with my thoughts on what went down in the 8th, 9th and 10th innings.

After the Howie Kendrick grand slam was crushed into oblivion and the Dodgers had made their final out, I sat there for an hour on our couch last night after it was over in utter dismay. I watched the National celebrate on the hallowed grounds of Chavez Ravine. I watched our team linger in the dugout as they couldn’t believe what had just happened. I watched our manager Dave Roberts fumble through his post-game press conference. And most proudly, I sat there and watched Clayton Kershaw, the greatest pitcher of his generation, answer every single question from reporters about his two pitches that sailed over the outfield fence. Although the loss was not completely on him, he owned it like a man and admitted to his October shortcomings.

I finally went to bed about 1 a.m. A few hours later I woke up and my first thought was the Dodgers loss. It was 4 a.m. I laid in bed for the next three hours and could not go back to sleep.

Laugh if you wish. That’s okay as I’m pretty secure in my baseball fandom. Some of you care about your sports teams like I do and understand it. Others of you have other passions and interests like crochet, knitting and growing flowers. That’s okay too, although I can’t imagine they give you the highs and lows of October baseball!

So on this day after the season was over, at their request the kids and I played catch and they batted a few balls. Zach actually drilled a line drive off my right shin and I tumbled to the ground in writhing pain, which adds to the story given it’s title. He also laughed hysterically around the bases (a.k.a – stones) as I laid there questioning why I was pitching to him from ten feet away. The analytics on him never showed that he would have the velocity and launch angle to hit me in the shin!

Before I got nailed by Zach’s knee-buckling line drive, what came to mind was the voice from the Field of Dreams when it said “Ease His Pain.” That is what my kids were doing for me on this second Thursday in October. Although the voice speaks throughout the movie, it is these three words that are the theme of the film. 

Canadian author W.P. Kinsella wrote the novel “Shoeless Joe” in 1982. As most of you know, this book is where the movie Field of Dreams comes from. My friend Willie Steele became friends with W.P. Kinsella in his last years and was tapped by Kinsella to be his personal biographer. In April, on the 30th anniversary of the movie, Willie released his book “Going The Distance: The Life & Works of W.P. Kinsella.” {Click here to purchase your copy!}

With that Field of Dreams soundtrack still rolling in my head, I reached out to the Kinsella historian himself tonight to get his take on the famous line from the movie. Fortunately, because we are comrades in the Twitter-sphere, Willie quickly replied, “The whole novel and film hinge on that line ‘Ease His Pain.’ Everyone has some pain of loss, regret, frustration, anger, etc. The field allows everyone to have the pain eased. It doesn’t say ‘end his pain,’ but ‘ease his pain.’ The pain will still be there, but it won’t be as bad.”

Willie, a diehard Pirates fan who has seen his fair share of disappointing seasons himself, knew that I was taking my Dodgers loss hard, “There is a lot of pain in Dodger land today, but it’ll be less as this season gets smaller in the rearview mirror and spring training nears. Hope springs eternal, and that hope is what eases the pain.”

Yes, the pain of another Dodgers season falling short of high expectations stings. It did last night and it still does today. For me it usually takes 48-72 hours for the sting to begin to fade away. Like Willie said, it doesn’t completely go away, but it’s not as bad.

I realize there are greater pains in our lives that are much bigger and more important than a kid’s game played by grown men. This is so incredibly trivial compared to what most people in the world are facing today.

But today that Dodgers loss was my pain per se. Unknowingly, Harrison eased it today when he asked me the question, “Daddy, will you come play catch with me?”

When that question is asked, the answer is always yes.

So we played catch. And the devastating loss began to sting just a little bit less.

FEATURED IMAGE:
10.10.2019 – taken by Beth Jent from our back deck


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October 10, 2019

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