For our third date, my husband, Dirk, took me to a batting cage. “Cute,” I thought, “the active, sporty date. Well, as long as he doesn’t mind me getting sweaty, it could be fun. Why not?” Then he invited my mother along, which, if your goal is romance, tends to put a damper on things.
I at the time, Dirk was a professional baseball pitcher, and my mom a huge fan of the sport. As for me, I didn’t care for it. Baseball is slow, with something like a prison cell in the outfield for the guys who never play, and a crazy amount of acronyms that, even after 3 years of marriage, I still can’t figure out. Sure, the pants were nice, but beyond that, what’s the big fuss? I let Dirk know right from the start that if he thought I would be one of those girls easily swayed by the power of his job title, he was wrong.
I couldn’t say the same for my mother, though. She couldn’t agree to come on our “date” fast enough, despite some heavy hints I dropped about her needing to have other plans that evening. Needless to say, it was embarrassing showing up with a chaperone at 28 years of age, more so than sweaty pits could ever be.
When we arrived at the date’s location, I was in for another surprise. We weren’t going to some batting cage where you put quarters into a machine that flipped balls. Dirk was the machine, and he was going to pitch to us. Live.
My mom went bananas. Usually timid about participating in sports, she couldn’t wait to test her skills against a real pro. She couldn’t hit anything, but then Dirk called time and gave her one-on-one instruction on how to hold the bat, where to step, and when to swing. It was very sweet, not to mention effective, because my mother almost knocked his head off on the next pitch.
Then it was my turn. Dirk showed me what to do so I didn’t “swing like a girl.” He put my hands on the bat and explained that pitching and hitting are all about timing. A pitcher tries to screw up a hitter’s timing, while the hitter tries to get it down; to time the swing to the pitch and make contact. A hit was all about things colliding at just the right moment. He said if I could focus on those simple fundamentals when the ball was coming at me, I’d be fine. I made contact on his first toss.
We got married a year later. Not because my mom pressured me into marrying a living pitching machine, and not because the way he placed my hands on the bat was irresistibly romantic (though it kinda was). We got married because after years of being single and looking for the right person, we just happened to time each other up and make contact.
My husband had the opportunity to meet a lot of people through his line of work, but they were mostly people who liked him because of what he did, not who he was. He told me that one of the reasons he fell in love with me was because I had more interest in what kind of person he was, than in his jersey. My honesty was refreshing to him.
I fell in love with him because of the patience he had for the people around him. For his care and understanding through life’s complexities. Okay, my feelings might have been swayed a little by how cool it is to watch him throw in front of thousands of fans. But, at the end of the day, I know that what he does is the least important thing in the equation of our relationship. If we had seen only job titles, or chances to capitalize on fame, we would have been making a big mistake. Later, if those things disappeared, so would our love.
Hitting isn’t easy, and neither are relationships. My husband and I face some unique obstacles now that I’m a player’s wife; bad outings, high ERA’s, slumps, losses and injuries. Regardless of what it is, I know we’ll able to handle it because, just like in baseball, big challenges are overcome by sticking to the simple, solid fundamentals. And as long as we focus on the fundamentals that define our love, I know we can handle whatever life throws at us.