Yehudah Fine

Written by Yehudah Fine

Commentary:Two Sets of Home Plates

April 03, 2003

Originally published in Hadassah Magazine April 2003, Vol. 84 No. 8

Spring is always a welcome sight in New York. The daffodils break ground early, although the spring warmth doesn’t really arrive until May. The chill of early April provides a magical opportunity to bring your kids to a baseball game. I’ve always tried to make it to Yankee Stadium for the first Thursday-night game of the season. Lucky for us, that Thursday often falls during Hol Hamoed Pesah (the intermediate days of the holiday), so our memories of cheering for the Bronx Bombers are mixed with sitting in the stands chomping on matza and macaroons. I tried to give my kids life markers that underscore the beauty and poignancy of this world. In the world of spirit and celebration, I gave them Torah and the holidays. In the world of community, I gave them Israel and the Jewish people. In the world of sports, I’ve given them baseball because it offers a vision that reflects an inner spiritual value. It is what my father gave to me—a love of the game. Baseball is a gallant metaphor of triumph and struggle that reflects so much of life, of living in the moment and giving your all.

On one of those Thursday nights, the Yankees were playing the Texas Rangers. My son Benny, all of 8 years old, had on a Yankee hat that didn’t quite fit. He headed over to where the Rangers were taking batting practice, stuck out his glove and prayed a kid’s prayer: “Let me get a ball.” Getting a major league baseball is a mythical quest for little fans; I still have two from my childhood. To this day, all I have to do is look at them and I remember the warm summer nights at the ballpark with my dad.

This was Benny’s night: A Texas Ranger picked up a ball and put it into his glove. Later, as we sat in the fog-shrouded upper deck, Benny turned to me and said, “It’ll never be better than this. Too bad I can’t stay a kid forever.”

Growing up in the 50’s, I never doubted how the world worked. My father, a physician, was a veteran of World War II and an ardent Zionist. I grew up trout fishing after school and sitting high up in the old bing cherry orchard that was on the abandoned farm next to our house.

But my most prized memories are of my dad and me heading out in the spring to catch a minor league game at the local ballpark. Our best conversations were of Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg. Like Pesah, returning to the ballpark was an exodus and a renewal. After all, springtime is the story of our Exodus—the turning stone when our ancient, growing Jewish family was transformed into a people.

There’s no way my dad could have known what a priceless inheritance he was giving my family and me. The Talmud asks, “Who is a wealthy person?”—and answers, “One who is happy with what he has.” Sometimes it’s as simple as the crack of a bat on a mild evening.

In my little family, the mixture of Pesah, baseball and daffodils makes spring an eagerly awaited and cherished joy. Year after year we feel a renewal of hope for humanity, for the Jewish people, for Israel—much needed these past two years after the events of 9/11.

My kids have grown and moved away. This year, we’re meeting up in Florida for something new: Spring training! And you’d better believe we’ll be discussing our spring training odyssey when we sit together at the Seder, recounting the Exodus and renewing our faith in the future of the Jewish people.

© 2020 Yehuda Fine