Jennifer (top right in photo at left) graduates from Texas Tech this month with a Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy. Save for my brother's son who is a preacher in Maine, it's the only Master's ever bestowed upon anyone in the family and for that my chest is, admittedly, about to burst.
Before Jennifer was a master's candidate, she was a baseball fan; has been since she hit an inside-the-park groundball homer in her first at bat in t-ball.
A couple of weeks ago, she mentioned again that before long she would be moving from West Texas and would be forced to attend -- gasp! -- Astros games. "But I'll never be a fan," she insisted.
And then she said, "Daddy, could we go to one more Ranger game together before I move?"
What's a daddy to do?
So we loaded up the car, just the two of us, and set out on a father-daughter trip to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. She told me on the way there that she gets excited about going to the Ballpark the way most young people get excited about going to Disney World. (She was saying all the right things).
We were fortunate to choose what might have been the Rangers' best game of the season -- a 10-1 schooling of Oakland Wednesday during which Texas knocked out five home runs and saw a gem of a game pitched by one of their up-and-comers. It was a huge treat for us, that we were able to watch such a good game, and also that we could do it together.
She only yelled at the umpire a couple of times, and for that I was relieved because we had really nice, close-in seats. As the game progressed and Jennifer kept to a vocal dull roar, I thought to myself how proud I was at how far she had come in the last five years.
And I'm not talking about her studies or her accomplishments at Tech. I'm talking about her behavior at Major League Baseball games. I refer specifically to the time the whole family was together in the outfield in May of 2005 (that's the game in the photo above), as the Rangers hosted the New York Yankees. It was Johnny Damon's first trip to Arlington as a Yankee, after having bolted the Boston Red Sox. Months earlier, he had helped lead the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years. Jennifer felt it was wrong for Damon to be pulling on a uniform for the Evil Empire after all he had done for Boston, her second favorite team behind the Rangers. And so she let him know about it.
My late father sat and watched with a mixture of horror, fascination and humor as his grand-daughter gave baseball's newest Yankee superstar 'what for' every time he occupied centerfield.
"Damon! You stink!"
"Go back to Boston you bum."
"Go home, Damon!"
Jennifer was blessed with a strong vocal ability and her verbal assault on the Yankee outfielder continued throughout much of the game. At one point -- no lie, no embellishment here -- Damon even turned around and looked in our direction as Jennifer gave it to him with all she had. I could imagine him thinking to himself "What sort of nut would be this mad at me in Arlington, Texas?" And I imagined my response to him would be, "Well sir, that nut is my daughter."
My dad chuckled uncomfortably as he squirmed in his chair for much of that night. He likely hadn't seen an outburst like this since he'd enjoyed one of former Baltimore manager Earl Weaver's back-hatted tirades in the 1970s.
Jennifer's display Wednesday night in Arlington was somewhat more subdued than the one we witnessed in 2005, although there was the occasional tasteful (in comparison) outburst aimed at the direction of the umpires and the opposing A's. Had he been alive to see it, dad would have felt much more at ease with his grand-daughter's new-found dignified behavior at the ballpark.
It took her five years to get where she is. At least where her studies are concerned. I'm not quite sure she'll ever completely behave herself at a ballgame. At least not one in which Johnny Damon plays.