PRESIDENT'S REMARKS: ANDREW HARLEM, PH.D.
There is nothing quite like the atmosphere that surrounds a winning baseball team. Eyes bent toward screens in supermarket checkout lines, black and orange declarations of loyalty bursting across bodies and landscapes, neighbors opening windows to return shouts of approval, public spaces infused with newfound civic pride, and novel linguistic parings ("Fear the beard!") are commonplace in those special moments when the home team triumphs, reminding us that while sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, our national pastime is so much more than a game.
"Throw me a pop up this time, Daddy -- far away! -- so that I have to dive to catch it!" I survey the back yard, scanning the rocks and other potential hazards, as well as my son's new jeans, soon to look anything but new. Just a few moments prior, his request would have felt forced, premature, something other than the expression of desire for a challenge. But now, after ten minutes of rhythmic back-and forth cooperation, he wants to distinguish himself, to show me (and the imaginary crowd) his stuff. I feel like I know exactly where to throw it, how hard to throw it, how high to throw it. We've done this many times before. Over the years, I�ve watched his range gradually expand and his hand-eye coordination develop (and mine decline) with each of our backyard catches. I lean back, cock my arm and release the ball into the sky, remembering, as I always do at that very moment, the movements of my own father's body as he threw for the clouds.
For a split second, I worry that I've thrown the ball too far. But Isaac dives forward and makes the catch, with elbows in the grass and a smile wide enough to engulf us both.
Ball in glove, we settle in to watch a playoff game together. Another familiar rhythm takes over. As each new hopeful enters the batter's box, Isaac asks, "Do you think he will get into the Hall of Fame someday?" My obsessional, baseball-crazed boyself responds to his query, mastery of statistics and the finer points of the game on full display, until a crack of the bat interrupts. The crowd roars as we jump off the couch to cheer a home run, one stroked by a likely Hall-bound second baseman. "Daddy, what do they do when they go to live at the Hall of Fame?" Another smile, this time mine, engulfs us. In a little boy's mind, it seems, Cooperstown, New York, isn't far from Heaven itself.
Andrew Harlem, Ph.D.