My wife and I played a game of catch today. We were supposed to be packing because we are in the middle of moving houses. But there we were, lobbing a cowhide ball back and forth in the driveway.
The oldest game known to humankind is the game of catch. Eons ago, Eve took a bite of her apple, tossed it to Adam and said, “Hey, Adam! Catch!” And just like that, the Atlanta Braves were born.
I learned how to catch a baseball when I was 2 years old, sitting on the porch swing with my father. It was summer. I was eating a patriotic-colored popsicle. Witnesses remember my father underhanding the ball to me and saying, “Look alive, son!”
At age 2, I was not known for having feline-like reflexes. In fact, my greatest display of hand-eye coordination was applauding myself for peeing in my own bathwater.
So when the baseball arced through the air I merely drooled at it. The ball hit me squarely in the forehead. I fell off the swing. My mother heard the thud and tore out of the house in a fury. And that’s how my father lost his front incisors.
Over the years, I studied the basics of my father’s cherished game. Not just the big stuff. I learned little stuff, too.
I learned how to spit sunflower seeds correctly, how to insult the batter’s mother, and how to get pine tar all over our family station-wagon interior.
I learned to keep my eye on the ball, to lift my fingers during a headfirst slide, to crowd the plate, and how to adjust my private regions mid-game for hundreds of spectators, like a professional.
But my most vivid memories are the ones where I’m playing catch.
Catch is its own game. It has its own cadence. There is no scorekeeping. No time limit. No rules. If you close your eyes and listen to a couple of people playing catch, you will only hear gentle conversation, punctuated by loud slaps.
I played catch with my father nearly every evening of his adult life. We played devoutly, and we pitched fast. At times, my father slung the ball so hard I had to tuck a sponge into my glove to prevent permanent nerve damage.
Daddy always carried our gloves in his truck so that we could play catch whenever the mood hit. We played in some odd places.
I remember one time when my family was shopping at JCPenney, my father and I snuck into the parking lot for a quick game of horse. When my mother exited the department store, she found two idiots hurling four-seamers past BMWs and Benzes.
“I married a mouth breather,” I recall my mother saying.
We played catch in public parks, churchyards, front lawns, back lots, and on the side of the highway while waiting for the tow truck.
Once, my father and I even played catch at 14,439 above sea level, atop Mount Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado, just to say we had done it.
My father’s glove was a 1962 MacGregor, Willie Mays model. He kept it conditioned with axle grease. As a boy, he had saved up his money for two summers to buy the mitt from a general store in Iola. He paid a grand total of $16.00, which only shows you the rate of inflation.
Today, a decent glove will run you upwards of $300.
The afternoon before my father died, we played catch. If I’d known he was going to die, I would have thrown the ball harder.
The morning after his funeral, I went to his truck and retrieved his orphaned MacGregor. I smelled it. I cried upon the webbing. And I slept with the glove beside my bed for years.
But over the decades something happened to me. I grew up I guess. Life got busy. I got busy. I don’t remember how it happened, but I lost his glove.
This wasn’t unusual for me, of course. I lost a lot of his stuff. Eventually, a dead man’s belongings will sprout legs and walk away from you if you’re not careful. I lost his tools, his book collection, the F-14 Tomcat models he built, his eyeglasses, and his antiquated Remington Rollectric razor.
I once tore my house apart, looking for his mitt to no avail. I spent half the day emptying boxes, ripping apart closets, and crawling under beds.
When it finally dawned on me that I’d actually lost the glove he’d owned since middle school, I gave up the hunt and wept. Because, you see, this meant he was really gone.
At long last, my father was officially silt. All the inert objects he loved had vanished. All his kickknacks were vapor. All I had left of him were dim memories, and even those were disappearing.
Time went on, I didn’t think much about the glove again until this morning.
This morning I was going through boxes in the attic. I wasn’t really paying attention, I was just sifting. At the bottom of a box marked MISCELLANEOUS I found a dark leather MacGregor glove. I brought the 60-year-old mitt to my nose and pulled a breath inward—axle grease. Then I polished the leather liberally with my own saltwater.
So that’s why I played catch today.
Peggy C - February 13, 2022 7:03 am
Leslie in NC - February 13, 2022 7:36 am
Sean, when I read yesterday that you’d found your father’s baseball glove after years of searching, I knew you must have lubricated that glove with your tears. I hoped to someday read the story behind the glove and being an insomniac, I am reading it now at 2:30 am and am weeping with you. Such a precious memory that you now have the ability to hold in your hand – or rather on your hand. I hope you enjoy many more years of playing catch with his glove and keeping the sweet memories close.
Martha Black - February 13, 2022 7:37 am
Im so happy you got to play catch today. It was a worthwhile endeavor……….. my heart is blessed
Kate - February 13, 2022 9:25 am
Baseball has to be a part of everyone’s life because we all seem to have played catch sometimes in our lives. While we might not watch professional baseball anymore, the memories of playing catch with my brothers and the neighborhood kids always brings back sweet memories, when life was innocent and we seemed to have time to just play and enjoy the game, even if it was in an empty lot, the backyard or even in the street.
Janet W. - February 13, 2022 11:12 am
Oh, Sean……the feelings you evoke! The people you remind me of…
joan moore - February 13, 2022 11:34 am
Sean, “Is this Heaven?”
Karen Erwin-Brown - February 13, 2022 11:44 am
Super…always in that last place your look.
Virginia+Russell - February 13, 2022 11:44 am
Boy did this hit home. This weekend I’m sorting baskets my mother used for flower arrangements. She’s with me.
David Grant - February 13, 2022 11:44 am
Bless your ‘big’ heart Sean !!
jsturgessr - February 13, 2022 12:04 pm
LKnight - February 13, 2022 12:50 pm
Sean, do you believe in God and second chances? I hope so, because it looks like you were given something so many of us miss when we are given that touch. That knowing that He is with you saying everything will be ok and giving you comfort in the way that is specific just for you. You Sean, are blessed and highly favored. Please continue to use your God given gifts to bless the rest of us. I pray for you and your gentle heart daily.
MissT - February 13, 2022 12:55 pm
I’m so happy this story ended the way it did! Play on, Sean!
Joy Jacobs - February 13, 2022 1:06 pm
Love this, brought tears to my eyes. I’ve read all your books.❤️
Paul McCutchen - February 13, 2022 1:08 pm
Glad you have nice memories of your father. Funny thing about playing catch with someone, it will open the mind up for talking.
Ron M - February 13, 2022 1:13 pm
That which was lost …
Maggie Lord - February 13, 2022 1:15 pm
Where are you moving and why? This question is simply because I’m nosy.
Jan - February 13, 2022 1:21 pm
So happy for you, Sean! Thank you, Lord, for small favors and great blessings!
Bud McLaughlin - February 13, 2022 1:22 pm
That’s one reason why “Hey, dad. Wanna have a catch” in Field of Dreams always brings tears – even now, as I write this.
Charlotte Virginia McCraw - February 13, 2022 1:29 pm
Shelton A. - February 13, 2022 2:02 pm
Thankful you found the glove! What a wonderful gift you’ve been given. Hopefully, you find a neighbor in Birmingham who’ll play catch with the two of you. You can practice turning two that way. Blessings and peace. And thanksgivings for memories of your dad brought back to life!
GAbee - February 13, 2022 2:17 pm
Another reason proving this move to a new home was meant to be!
Ruth Mitchell - February 13, 2022 2:20 pm
Beautiful! I always look forward to your conclusions, and today’s was a home run! I’m glad you found the glove.
Ralph Peck - February 13, 2022 2:25 pm
Liz - February 13, 2022 2:26 pm
People say they are just “ things.” I say they are cherished memories. Sean, you always hit a home run and this one made me cry again,
Bobby - February 13, 2022 2:29 pm
Bless your heart my friend. ❤️
Patricia Gibson - February 13, 2022 3:19 pm
I am so glad you found it🙏❤️
Karen J - February 13, 2022 3:49 pm
Awesome! I had just cleaned my glasses, now they’re all salty and have to be cleaned again. Thanks for all the good memories.
Tmac - February 13, 2022 4:09 pm
Briefly….Sean’s life has had so many things in common with my own that sometimes I think we must be “twin sons from different mothers” and I’ll throw in “born years apart”. My Dad played catch with me as much as he could and also coached my teams when he could. But I wasn’t big enough, fast enough or tough enough to be a very good player. My Dad died tragically, not in exactly the same way as Sean’s Dad, but horribly tragically. He didn’t have a glove (he’d use one of my old ones) but I have one that I bought, I think when I was playing in about 1968. So about 54 years ago. I’m gonna go pull it out now. probably gonna be some saltwater.
Christina - February 13, 2022 4:29 pm
I love every part of this. Love never fails
martha55rn - February 13, 2022 4:53 pm
God knew you needed this today! Beautiful!
Cathy M - February 13, 2022 4:53 pm
This is a short message bc my vision is blurred by tears. Not a coincidence that you found that glove. Nope, not for a minute. A man is smiling in heaven. You know who he is . I love you and so does a huge group in B’ham. Get here fast. You have so much to offer this wonderful city and we have the live to throw right back to you and Jamie
Tim Wood - February 13, 2022 4:56 pm
Tears. Almost every story brings memories flooding back…and then the tears. I am 57 and lost my Dad in ’94. God, I Loved that man. Our upbringing was very similar and I really do feel like I connect with you on a certain level. Keep the stories (and the tears) coming. Thank you.
Sean of the South: Lost and Found | The Trussville Tribune - February 13, 2022 5:48 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
KATY 12;50 pm - February 13, 2022 5:52 pm
Sean, Sometimes well -meaning mothers and grandmothers “lose” our dearest possessions such as baseball mitts, boxes of cards, rockets, dollhouses, comic books, toy tanks and soldiers. So happy you found a priceless connection to your father that was never really lost 💕
Stacey Wallace - February 13, 2022 6:03 pm
Sean, God bless you. My husband and I are so glad that you found your Daddy’s glove. What a blessing! See, moving to Alabama made you find it, so don’t listen to the Negative Nellies. Sweet Home Alabama is the best place on Earth to live. Love to you and Jamie.
Linda Moon - February 13, 2022 6:22 pm
Playing catch between packing sounds fun, and your 2 years old ball-playing with your father does, too. And then, I “lost it”. I wept as I continued to read to the end. My boy and his father played backyard catch, and years later his father played ball in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Their gloves…the boy’s and his father’s…now hang from a rack beneath a shelf in the basement. I looked at them just now. I’m very glad you went to the attic today.
Craig Johnson - February 13, 2022 6:48 pm
What beautiful emotive writing with a glorious admixture of poignant and side-busting humor.
MAM - February 13, 2022 7:44 pm
As soon as you wrote MISCELLANEOUS, I knew you would find the glove. We have moved more times than I care to count, and I always found something during the “going-through-things” times. My favorite happened because when we were going to come back to the states to see family after our first year overseas, I hid some of my jewelry. I hid it so well, I didn’t find it until we moved out of that house five years later, and there it was, well hidden. I, within the past few years when we were going on a long trip, put in a safe place the last photo I have of my father. I hope I can find it before we move again. We don’t plan to move anytime soon. It’s somewhere!
imcdbw - February 13, 2022 9:08 pm
Oh Sean! I just bawled like a baby. I am so very, very happy you found your daddy’s baseball glove! I thank God for giving you that blessing! And thank you for sharing your pain and joy with us!
Suzanne - February 13, 2022 10:43 pm
You found his glove because your dad wanted you to know he’s always with you. He wanted you to know he’s proud of you and your writing.
Gayle Wilson - February 13, 2022 11:21 pm
Sean, I’m so thankful you found your dad’s glove. You have memories that will bring you back to your childhood to remember the best parts of your dad and this is one of them.
Chasity Davis Ritter - February 13, 2022 11:31 pm
It’s been a big day of memories for me as well. I’m always inserting myself into your posts and how they compare to me in one way or another. I’ve written to you on more than one baseball post about my daughter and the Dream League. They posted yesterday that enrollment starts Tuesday for spring season and I can’t wait. We still practice catch when it’s pretty out and when you put this one on your fbook I’m gonna finally show you some pictures of her if it’s allowable on there. Her papa never got to come watch a game but I believe he watches her now every chance he gets. There are often dragonflies on the field when she plays…. she throws hard enough too that I might need to try that sponge trick myself. I can feel the pain in my palm from her last stinger if I think enough about it!! Today is my grand daughters 3rd birthday too. She shares this date with a few family greats as well as my friend Retta. Today is Retta’s 4th birthday in heaven. My dad never met my grand daughter this side of heaven because he passed just a few months after Retta did and Ive also said this more than once on your page that cancer sucks. It sucks the hardest. All I have left of Retta of course are the memories and the occasional cardinal sighting that I believe is her saying hello. You make lots of Angel posts and I believe cardinals are the wings she uses just as with my dad it’s dragonflies. I don’t have a lot of my dads things either but I do have the Bible he was given from his sister on his last birthday. It’s the one I carry to church and study from. I forgot it today trying to get out the door with the flowers I was going to take Retta after service. Did I mention they are buried not far from each other? I went to see them both after service and they were both on my mind during. Yeah I think I already said it’s been a day for memories. Thank goodness I haven’t lost them yet. And I was just thinking (hope this doesn’t upset anyone because Alzheimer’s sucks just as much as cancer) but maybe that’s why as we get older sometimes we lose the memories too. Not so much because they hurt but because we are getting closer to going home and seeing those we love again and God is getting our souls ready to see what will be brand new and not what we just think we remember. I dunno but for today I’m thankful for the memories. And I’m thankful you found that baseball mitt. I can’t imagine (and I can) just how good that felt.
Erv Riley - February 13, 2022 11:36 pm
So very happy for you. I have my father’s mitt also.
Ann Marie Bouchet - February 14, 2022 3:30 am
I am so,so glad you found that mitt.
CM - February 14, 2022 5:19 am
William Lowe - February 14, 2022 5:36 am
I like the second sentence of the first paragraph. You are “…moving houses.” You must have a big truck. It reminds me of something I would write.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - February 14, 2022 4:24 pm
Vince - February 14, 2022 8:11 pm
Very glad you found it, Sean. Sometimes things are more than things.. they are memories.
Marcia Enquist - February 14, 2022 9:05 pm
And that’s why you don’t dare throw everything out!!!
Betsey Matheny - February 15, 2022 5:06 pm
Every day you write a great article, but this is one of your best. Perhaps because our poetry class prompt this week was to write about something vintage. I wrote about the 53 year old wedding dress I discarded recently. I cried more about your mitt than I did the wedding dress!
Big " O " - February 17, 2022 4:58 am
IN THE MIDDLE TO LATE 50’S , WE WENT TO DETROIT FOR WORK , THREE BROTHER’S WORKING AT CADILLAC , FLEETWOOD PLANT , AND ME , AT AROUND 10 YEARS OF AGE IN 1960 ! WE LIVED ON LIVERNOIS NEXT TO ACME PIE COMPANY , I SPENT MY DAYS THROWING RUBBER BALL AGAINST BRICK WALL IN THE BACKYARD , THUMP , THUMP , THUMP HOURS AT A TIME TIL MY BROTHERS CAME FROM WORK FOR A GAME OF CATCH ! AT THE PLZYGROUND WE DREW STRIKE ZONE ON BRICK WALL , AND PLAYED STRIKE OUTS FOR HOURS ON END ! USUALLY 2 TO A TEAM …..WE CALLED OUR OWN BALLS AND STRIKES , AND RAN BASES LIKE REGULAR GAME , BUT IT WAS MOSTLY STRIKEOUTS AS THE SPONGE RUBBER BASEBALL WAS HARD TO HIT ANYWHERE BEING POOR , I COULDN’T PLAY KENTUCKY HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL TIL MY SENIOR YEAR , BUT I WAS 8 AND 0 WON DISTRICT , REGIONAL , SECTIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP , AND WE FINISHED 1 RUN FROM FINAL FOUR ! COACH SAID I HAD UNUSUAL CONTROL OF THE STRIKE ZONE , AND I ASSURED HIM IT CAME WHEN ACME PIE WORKERS WOULD COME OVER TO SEE WHAT THUMP , THUMP , THUMP , WAS AND BRING ME A PIE OR TWO !