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Raising him bi-baseballish


Sox1 If you come from Chicago, you're allowed to waffle over things like gyros or Italian beef, L or bus, inner Drive or outer, Lincoln Park Zoo or Brookfield. But what you're not supposed to waiver on is where your baseball loyalties rest.

Except in my family. I grew up on the north side, a straight shot on the bus, three miles from Wrigley Field. By those boundaries, we were bred to be Cubs fans. But my dad was always a Sox fan. That was cheered on by the fact that the Sox gave out free tickets to kids who read a certain number of books over the summer. Since I always read tons of books over the summer, that meant gloriously free Sox tickets, fireworks lighting up the southside sky, and my dad pretty damn happy at the end of our family row.

We were so close to Wrigley, though, that we still sat in the bleachers during summer games, occasionally wrapped in coats and hats and drinking hot chocolate and other times sunburned and slurping up ice cream already melted inside the wrappers. We still cheered loudly, still rooted hard for our team, still made my dad pleased we were out at the ball park.

This back and forth and my dad's preferences spanning such a stretch of expressway across the city led to some very awkward moments when out-of-towners asked whether the Cubs or Sox were our team. (Chicagoans didn't ask because they assumed our address told them all they needed to know.) I'd hem and haw at this answer, giving some kind of mumbled, "Ummm...both", hoping no one around me would razz me for it.

Then, it came time to introduce Lil E to the game. I got tickets easily last year from some friends with great seats at Wrigley. We had a great time. My dad explained elements of the game to my boy with a seriousness reserved for grandfathers and grandsons and lots of shelled peanuts between them. My mom taught him the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and I showed him how delicious cotton candy is, even on a very humid day.  A Cubs fan was made.

As we headed out, my dad leaned over to me and said, "And now we've got to get this kid to Comiskey."

Perhaps you know it as the now-U.S. Cellular Field. My dad refuses to call it that only with exaggerated disgust at today's branding standards after he's referred to it as Comiskey.

Lil E did make it to a Sox game with his dad. Then the balance shifted back when we returned to Wrigley for another Cubs game. It was 2-1 and I was unsure how it'd play out this summer.

Tonight, we evened the score. We headed to Comiskey...I mean, U.S. see the White Sox take on the Mariners. We got a sweet deal that included time at the patio, where patrons get food and drink included with the ticket price. It's eye-level with the field, so we ate hot dogs and ribs and watched the teams warm up. We were there with one of Lil E's favorite buddies and her mom, and the kids clung to the fence and we all yelled at the players to throw a ball to the small Sox fans.

Lil E's buddy's mom had already caught one ball, so we needed the other kid to get one, too. And they complied...eventually. Everyone around us cheered -- most loudly, the lady next to us who'd been yelling like crazy on behalf of our kids. The kids were so happy, tossing the balls to each other, being the goofy that only six-ear olds can be, and drinking too much soda.

Then, a kind groundskeeper who'd seen the kids earlier from the other side of the fence while he lugged equipment off the field, snuck up behind the kids and silently handed them each a ball. There was a pause all around us. Even the raucousness from table of college kids playing drinking games a few rows over seemed to fade. The kids were wide-eyed and a little stunned. We said many thank yous. More cheers. More tossing. More goofiness and soda.


By the time we made it to our seats, the kids were full of adrenaline and there was no way any of us were going to pay too much attention. They giggled and played in the empty seats and we chatted and periodically cheered on one of several really good plays. There were trips to the bathroom and a few stops to run under the water sprayer and a moment to watch fireworks explode in celebration of a Sox home run. We made it five innings and called it a night.

It was great. We had so much fun. And all I could think as we pulled out of the parking lot was, "Now when am I going to get that boy back to see the Cubs?"

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