Babies And Baseball: A Dad Plants The Seeds For A Shared Love Of The Game
Pete Van Vleet of Ashland, Va., is a Houston Astros fan – and was well before the team's World Series win this year. They were his team back when they were bad.
As part of Morning Edition's exploration of how fandoms help shape identity, Van Vleet explains how his love for the Astros has been a big part of him since childhood. Even today, if he needs a mood boost, he listens to game highlights from his youth.
Can a passion be inherited? Now a father, he's excited at the idea of sharing his love of baseball with his two young children, Jack, an infant, and Madeline, his 6-year-old daughter and budding Detroit Tigers fan.
Here, in his own words, Van Vleet talks about how his fandom has roots that are deeply connected to his parenting of Jack and Madeline.
This has been lightly edited for clarity.
A team a person roots for says a lot about that person. When I was growing up, there was no team around us, so it was up to me to pick my own team. And the Astros had the coolest uniforms. They played in the Astrodome, which was just fantastic. And they suffered.
I will tell this quick story: I used to play baseball by myself in the backyard. I would pretend I was the Astros, and the team would lose. Even in my own imagination the team would lose.
Soon after Jack was born I decided to write a letter to every team to ask them, "Why should my son choose you to be a fan?"
Eighteen major league teams sent us back letters or emails or packages, and it might include a onesie or a hat or a nice little toy and stickers.
I just want him to pick the team that in his heart is going to grab his heart, going to capture his imagination and just going to steal him away for life.
I took Madeline to Baltimore to see the Tigers play. We went to two games. The first game was a night game. And around the fifth inning she just kind of crawled into my lap, and I just kind of had to tell myself, "Remember this now. Remember this feeling and this moment now because five years from now, maybe less, she's not going to do this." And I know that's part of growing up, but at least we'll have that together now.
What I think drives people to fandom, I think there's some escapism to it. Whatever is going on in my life now, or Madeline's life, that all kind of lifts off from your shoulder when you enter this cathedral of a ballpark. And for maybe a couple of hours on a summer night, the problems aren't as big, your worries aren't as burdensome. You can just enjoy life for that little bit.
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