It was an uncharacteristically warm and sunny early evening, so my son and I grabbed our mitts and ran to the nearby park for a catch. For those readers unfamiliar, having a catch is a generations-old ritual of American life; at its simplest level, it is the activity of throwing a baseball back and forth between two people.

If you’ve seen the film ‘Field of Dreams,’ you may have a sense of the importance of this particular ritual to parent-child, (still primarily father-son) relations and bonding in our culture. Having a catch provides both physical proximity and mental space, which allows for conversation about issues that might never get addressed in the closer and more intimate setting of, say, the dining table.

On early summer evenings, like this one, my own dad would get home from work and we’d still have at least an hour of light left for a catch at the playground across the street. He’d like moving around after being at his desk all day but he’d also always take the chance for a cigar, which he wasn’t allowed at home.

Me? I don’t smoke, I just throw. Having a catch is enjoyable and restorative enough for me without any chemical enhancements.

You can’t simultaneously have a catch and think about the action of throwing. Think about throwing and, it never fails, the ball goes awry. Let the ball go freely from your hand, and all is well. Just one of the many paradoxes of baseball.

We, my son and I, have gotten to the point where his throws are harder than mine. Despite his lean frame, he’s got a cannon for an arm and his throws pop the leather of my glove with a snap that echoes around the park. Sounds great. His growing arm strength and control feels great to me too, on so many levels.

3 thoughts on “Catch”

  1. Not solely a ritual of American life, mate. Yeah, I’ve engaged in this play with my sons, and grandson, not only with a baseball and softball but with a cricket ball. Now, throwing a cricket ball to an ungloved hand is quite fearsome as your sons incrementally grow and want to show what they’re made of, and do. It’s less so with a baseball and gloved hand, and if you’re a cricket wicketkeeper (read catcher) equipped with gloves.
    Still, it is an absorbing rite of passage as you say, in either form, and not only engaging but validating life in what it means for the thrower to be approaching the prime of youth and the catcher in decline. Is that, maybe a title for a book: Catcher in Decline?
    Apart from that, I’ve played catch in similar fashion in India with young cricketing men too. It’s a ritual there too. India has 700,000 villages and each village has a cricket pitch — there, a lot of catch goes on. I’ve played catch in England too, it’s a ritual there, and it is also in New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and in the West Indies. I have no doubt I’ve ignored some places. You know who you are.
    Come to think of it, playing catch is probably well nigh universal. If not, perhaps the UN might promote catch as a way to universal peace and we could all “catch on”. May your summer roll on as you both catch as catch can.

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