Nonplussed: Little League and Letting Go

Multicolored Stadium seating
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk

“There is no crying in baseball, after all.”

It’s an unusually hot Saturday for May in NYC. I’m on Roosevelt Island, a part of the city I’ve been equally fascinated by and barely visited, let alone at 9 AM. There isn’t much shade near the baseball diamond and I squint as the blaring morning sun stares me in the face.

Photos by George Estreich
Laura June Kirsh's nephew playing little league baseball

The game ends, my nephew walks up and throws his mitt in frustration. He is one of the best players on the team and they lost—again. Their team, the Grey Vultures, are dead last in the league. 

My parents, sisters, brother-in-law and I all chime in simultaneously in a way that would seem rehearsed  “ahh come on bud!” There is no crying in baseball, after all.

My nephew is bright, thoughtful and overall very chill. After a few minutes of sulking he bounces back to his upbeat inquisitive self. Shortly after, I say my goodbyes and head off to Brooklyn for a birthday party.

While this may SEEM like a normal day, it wasn’t. This was the first time I had seen any of my family in months (many months), let alone together as a group.

We did not take on the pandemic as a team. Five strong-willed people with varying opinions on how to handle a crisis leads to, well, it’s own crisis.

I was by far the most cautious out of any family member on safety protocol because even more than the fear of getting sick, I could not live with the idea of getting somebody else sick. This led to fighting, a lot of it.

Thanksgiving was cancelled due to an exposure, I spent Christmas alone.

There were month-long stretches of not talking to any or specific family members at a time throughout the painful year. Our relationships had reached an all time low. 

Laura June Kirsh's nephew playing little league baseball. A young child stands on the catches mat. he holds a glove and wears a cap. In the background there is the larger baseball field and apartment buildings.

Which brings me back to that Saturday morning on the field. The fact that baseball got us together is not surprising. The love of the sport is deeply ingrained in my family’s DNA. My grandparents are/were respectively from the Bronx and Brooklyn and lifelong Yankee fans (reportedly my 91-year-old Grandmother was at an important doctor’s appointment last week and told them she had to leave now because the Yankee game was starting).

When people seem perplexed about how anybody could be a Yankee fan or how you could pick them over the Mets as your team I gently remind them—my family were fans of the Yankees long before the Mets even existed.

Laura June Kirsh's T Ball photo from 1995

My father, a huge baseball and sports fan in general, had three daughters. He took this in stride and enrolled us in T Ball and softball. He coached our team. He fought the sexist hot headed Long Islander fathers who tried to delegate all the nicer fields in our town for the boys teams only. He wanted to make sure we had as many rights and access as our male counterparts. He would incentivize us to practice with slurpees from the local 7-Eleven. 

My first job was being an umpire in middle school. Baseball is in the fabric of our family, even to a more casual fan of the MLB like myself. 

As much as my family loves baseball, we all love my niece and nephew the most. 

Going to see the Grey Vultures play became a weekly family tradition. We were into it. Knew all the players, made friends with their parents. Laughed as my niece and her friend sold hot dogs to strangers and did a  hilarious pagan-like dance over a two-dollar profit. 

After a year of the absolute most abnormal, isolating, hard and dystopian year of our lives, the simplicity and normalcy of attending a baseball game was therapeutic. It was my first dip back into socializing and exactly what I needed.

I must admit, prior to covid the odds of me getting up at 7AM on a Saturday and trek to Roosevelt Island to watch a little league game would have been slim to none. Honestly, up until my 30s I worked or was out nearly every night until 4 AM. Last weekend I woke up bright and early on a Saturday to attend a Sculpt Society workout in Hudson Yards. If you told me this two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Being a morning person and catching those things I’ve missed out on the last 20 years has been a completely new experience, one welcomed change due to the pandemic. 

Laura June Kirsh's nephew playing little league baseball. He wears a batter's helmet and is holding a bat preparing to swing. In the foreground is a black chain fence.

One big theme in my life this past year has been mastering the art of letting go–including in my personal relationships. While things aren’t always perfect, I love my family. Despite whatever arguments and fights we had this last year, I knew I had to let them go and move forward. At the end of the day, they are all I have.

After spending half the season in dead last the Grey Vultures preserved and won the championship title. I can’t wait to be cheering them on next season, first thing in the morning.