It wasn’t about the score on the scoreboard. Sure, I was upset, the Colorado Rockies were down, and by a rather large number of runs during their home opener in Denver. But as I sat there in section 225 Row 3 seat 4, I couldn’t be too upset.
Sitting in seat 3, next to me was my dad. Like many summers before, we sat next to each other cheering on our respective baseball teams: Los Angeles Dodgers for him the Colorado Rockies for me.
This game was different though, it was the Rockies Home Opener. My hopes were (and still are) that the Rockies will clinch the National League West division. But that same hope was within the eyes of my dad. In fact, the Dodgers are the odds-on favorite to win the World Series, and they have the team to do it.
When I was growing up, the same scenario played out through many summers. It is a story that I tell everyone when they find out that this Kansas City dad is a Colorado Rockies fan. I say to them about the road trips in our Toyota Camry packed to the brim with my mom, sister, dad at the wheel, and me in the passenger seat with a road map out guiding us to Denver from our small Western Kansas town.
I tell the story about the time I told my parents during that 5-hour drive that I was going to catch a foul ball, to which they crushed my dreams saying that no one had ever caught a ball that far down the 3rd baseline of Coors Field. But then I reached out the hat that was the Rockies giveaway that day, a ball fell smack dab in the middle of my hat, pulling the brim from my fingers and into the empty seat in front of me. As my dad looked around for the ricochet, I pulled the ball out of my hat and held it up, the crowd cheered. I imagine that the local TV broadcast had their cameras on this 12-year-old with the biggest smile on his face who caught a foul ball off Ellis Burks.
I tell them about the story of when my dad was able to get his hands on 2008 playoff tickets, and I made the road trip to Denver to see game 3 of the 2008 National League Division Series. A game the Rockies won and celebrated on the pitching mound. It is a story that becomes fresh in my mind as we walk the Club Level of Coors Field behind the press boxes with pictures of that historic run playoff run.
On my Southwest flight back to Kansas City, somewhere over Northwest Kansas, Cole Swindell’s, “You Should Be Here,” started to play through my headphones. A song he sings about his dad who passed away and the moments he wishes that he could be here to experience with his son.
I look a few rows up on our flight and see a dad holding his daughter, and a row just head of that a dad is holding his son. I can’t help but wish one person was sitting next to me, my son. I wish that he was able to experience this with me. It’s nowhere near what Cole is singing about in the song, but I do wish my son could be right there sitting next to me in Row 18 on this Boeing 737.
While he is going to have many memories of spending time with me and his grandpa, the moment would have been that much more special if he had been there sitting next to me. Maybe he would have caught the foul ball that landed just feet from us and eventually ricocheted down to the lower level.
As we made our final descent into Kansas City International Airport, “Fire and the Flood” by Vance Joy came on. Without hesitation, the final scene of the movie Storks started playing through my head. And much like in that moment when Tulip knocked on the door of her families home, I imagined what it was going to be like when I walked through the door to see my family. The giant bear hug followed by the question, “what did you get me dad?” that my oldest would ask.
A smile would cross my face as I open my luggage and pull out a Nolan Arenado T-Shirt, his new favorite player, and the giant hug that would follow. Then I’d pull out my 2-year-old’s shirt hearing him say, “my Rockies shirt!”
“Where are you headed?” the couple next to me asks.
“This is my final destination… Kansas City is home.” I say as I snap out of this moment of bliss.
The conversation turns toward that this couple was flying home from seeing their kids.
“Enjoy this time, because there will come a time when they decide to move out to do something that they love, and you’ll be doing exactly what we are doing (flying home from seeing kids).”
As I grab my luggage and wish the couple safe travels, thinking about the conversation that I had just had, I couldn’t help but think about how my dad asked me about going to Opening Day with him,
“Hey, I have Rockies Opening Day tickets. Would you like to come?”
“Of course… I don’t care what I have to do, I’m going to make it work.”
The outcome of the games didn’t matter. What mattered to me was that I had an experience with my dad that I will never forget. A memory that of sharing what couldn’t be a more father and son thing to share together: Opening Day. And hopefully, I will be able to share this exact experience with my kids someday.