Once upon a time, in a distant day when the streetlights coming on were the call to head back home and the Oilers were still a real thing, a young boy and his family moved to Houston from San Antonio, along with two slightly pink loaves of bread that mom and dad swore were his little sisters. In no time, little league became the fascination of this little boy. Bats became bread and baseballs became water. The sport was all the young boy talked about, an endless stream of questions for dad:
"What’s an RBI?"
"What’s a double?"
"Why does that pitcher keep rubbing the same spot on his arm?"
An endless supply of stories from the young boy’s father about his own playing days, as well as his father’s playing days as a young man scouted by the White Sox in the early 1950s to play centerfield, and other various sundry anecdotes and factotums about the history of the game ensued. The little boy’s father had baseball in his blood, though his active interest in the sport had waned in recent years, and so the two learned the ins and outs of their new adopted team together. It soon became apparent that the boy had baseball in his blood, too. Nightly games of catch, often lasting far beyond when the father could still see the ball in the gathering anathema of dusk, became a fifteen year routine. Trips to batting cages, coaching clinics, workshops, and private coaching sessions with former major league role players turned coaches…he was given every opportunity to further his own abilities and knowledge. The boy digested and learned and absorbed.
The pivotal moment in the young boy’s transition came on an April evening in 1993. His parents took the little boy and his sisters – who knew, they weren’t loaves of bread after all? – to a baseball game. The home team wasn’t very good, but they had a couple of young players that the young boy’s father had told him were pretty good. One of them had won the Rookie of The Year two seasons before. Another had moved nearly seamlessly from catcher to second base, which the young boy’s father marveled at. The young boy had seen these players a couple times on the television, and was particularly enamored with the man at third base – the boy’s father’s position during his playing days – who had a cannon for an arm. And there was a young pitcher named Kile who had a really wicked curveball – and the young boy had a friend named Kyle, so of course this guy was instantly cool. The little boy didn’t care that it was his last name that was Kile, that was the name on his jersey, and that was the little boy’s friend’s name.
Upon pulling into the parking lot, the little boy’s first impression was of the immensity of the parking lot and of the indomitable, forceful presence of the strangely shaped building that commanded absolute attention. The little boy hardly noticed the roller coasters across the street. He tugged on his father’s hand, and hurried and whined while his father’s indulgent smile quickly turned to remonstrations and admonitions about cars driving (the boy hardly noticed them) and slowing down to wait for mom and the loaves…er…sisters. Finally, they were inside. Oh, the joy! The stark, awe-inspiring wonder of that massive roof, 250+ feet overhead! The brightly colored seats, the incredible scoreboard!
And them. They were there, like so many prodigal ants, firing a microscopic, white, spherical object at superhuman speeds around the field. Standing under a strange netted enclosure taking practice swings.
And the boy nearly fainted when he saw one standing with fans along the side of the field signing things. The boy fairly dragged his father down, and met a smiling, friendly young outfielder in a jersey who said "Hi, I’m Luis. What’s your name?" as he signed the boy’s brand new Astros hat.
From that night, a lifelong true love was born for the young boy. At times bitter; festering…and at others joyous; jubilant. But always there. Never replaced, never diminished.
The boy would grow to be a man, with children of his own. In his time, he went to many games in that hallowed Astrodome…a dozen or more a season, if truth be told. He came to be on a first name basis with General Admission, and had numerous pictures with the general and his cannon. He went to the final regular season game in that Astrodome, nearly a man grown, and cried like the 9 year old child he had been at his first game…knowing it was all over for him there in the Dome. He went to the exhibition game against the Yankees to open the brand new Enron Field with his mother, who had also attended a certain exhibition game in 1965 against the Yankees. He saw Roger Clemens collect a hit to right field, saw Ricky Ledee hit the first homerun, saw Daryle Ward strike the first long ball for the Astros in their new park, driving the monstrous Conoco pump in left center field from zero to one. It would grow by another 249 regular season homeruns that season to set a National League record, and the Astros would go on to have one of the worst seasons in franchise history to that point. The boy would go on to be a tour guide at the stadium in 2004 and 2005 under its new name, Minute Maid Park, and attend every single home playoff game the Astros played in those seminal years – including a win over the St. Louis Cardinals that featured a walk-off three run homerun by Jeff Kent against Jason Isringhausen, an 18 inning playoff victory versus the Braves from the bats of Brad Ausmus and Chris Burke, and then the team’s first World Series berth.
And finally, at the age of 31, the young boy – now a man – would bring his two young daughters to their very first baseball game. He’d take pictures of his little girls staring wonderingly at the bronze representations of the heroes he’d watched in the flesh, explain lovingly all of the pennants hanging and what they meant. He would talk about the roof and the train and all of the facts and figures from the new park that still resonated in his brain, ten years after the last tour he ever gave in the park. And he would see his little girl’s eyes fill in wonderment as her new favorite player, a young man wearing number 20 whose name was Preston, signed her ticket for her along the side of the field.
And thus, the circle continued.
My name is Jason Marbach. I’ve been a writer and a touring, professional musician, where I earned the nickname "Marbrockstar". I’ve worked in the oil field, I’ve been married and divorced, and I have two beautiful daughters who live with me. Through everything in my life, the good and the bad, baseball has always been there for me. It has been a trusted, silent family member. It is with the greatest pride and esteem that I proudly assume my role as a Staff Writer here at the Crawfish Boxes. Much love and thanks to my daughters, and to my ever-supporting parents and sisters for pushing me to realize this goal of mine to let my writing loose back into the world.
My sisters will always be little loaves, to me.