'My dad has made a vocation of telling baseball stories'

Courtesy of Carrie Ann Welsh

"My dad, Chris Welsh, a former MLB pitcher himself, has made a vocation of telling baseball stories," Carrie Ann Welsh writes on her baseball-loving dad.

I was never much of an athlete but I was raised on baseball stories: folklore and ghost tales, legends of the greats and statistics about the stars. Family car rides were an opportunity for me to master the investigative question: "Hey Dad, how many innings was the longest night game and what time did it end?" "What's the most number of pitches thrown in one game?"

My dad, Chris Welsh, a former MLB pitcher himself, has made a vocation of telling baseball stories. As the color announcer for the Cincinnati Reds, he illustrates the play-by-play broadcaster's narration with history and anecdotes.

"You know, No. 45 was an English major."

"The star shortstop actually got cut from his high school baseball team."

"Last time the hitter faced this pitcher was six years ago, and the game got rained out."

Dan Welsh, my grandfather, also loved baseball. A chemical engineer by trade, he approached baseball with an analytical point of view, and he taught his four kids -- my dad and his sisters -- how to keep score.

Growing up, they would keep score at Reds games in Cincinnati and even at home, listening to the radio. For my aunts, keeping score was a way for them to connect with their father over the game he loved. For my dad, it was a spelling primer to his baseball career, the early alphabet of a lifelong language.

Courtesy of Carrie Ann Welsh

"Dan Welsh, my grandfather, also loved baseball. He taught his four kids -- my dad and his sisters -- how to keep score," Welsh writes on her grandfather.

Like statistics, scorecards tell a story. When he coached my dad's middle school baseball teams, Grandpa Dan kept a book to keep score and tabulate the totals at the end of the game.

For each game, he would add prose, scribbling a short summary: "Frank had a great game today; he had three hits and two RBIs. Chris chipped in with an RBI and Charles had a double."

My dad still has Grandpa Dan's old scorebook. Reading the brief entries, memories of the game come alive, illustrating the otherwise bland facts of runs, hits and errors. 

One summer at a Brooklyn Dodgers game, young Grandpa Dan sat in the stands winding his watch, his eyes on the infield. Don Newcombe, the pitcher, suddenly turned and made a wild pick-off throw, and a runner scored. Grandpa Dan was so astounded that he overwound his watch in agitation and it broke.

He kept the broken watch in a drawer and looked at it every once in a while, taking it out to remember that moment.

I asked my dad what he thinks he might have learned from the story as a kid.

"What I took away from it, other than the baseball element, was how that little watch sitting in his drawer would take him back to an important memory of his younger years, and how things can make you remember moments."

To me, the lessons were threefold: Don't let baseball wind you up too tight. Be careful throwing to the bases. And finally, anything can hold a story.

The stories that my dad told me as a kid -- on car trips, on nights when I couldn't sleep, at baseball games -- transported me and gave me a sense of my past and future. His imaginative answers to my most trivial questions taught me how creativity can offer connection, just as his father's stories had done for him.

Courtesy of Carrie Ann Welsh

The writer and her father in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 2006, Grandpa Dan died of Alzheimer's disease. He was an avid letter writer, handwriting pages to my father weekly. The letters would cover a variety of subjects, but always came back to baseball. When my dad would visit his father toward the end of his life, he brought the stories from these letters.

Sometimes, my grandfather's eyes would gleam in recognition. Stories are a mystery, contained unseen within us. Grandpa Dan gave my dad stories. When it came time, my dad gave them back.

Carrie Ann Welsh is a writer based in Wisconsin.  

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