by Jace Daniel (b. 1969)
It was Opening Day. The young boy, who grew up in the country, had never been to a big league baseball game in his short eight years. Today was the day to change that, as Grandfather had two bleacher tickets for the first ballgame of the season. A sold-out game to see his favorite team, the Dodgers.
Dodger Stadium was more immense than the young boy had ever imagined. As he and Grandfather made their way to the seats just minutes before the game, his eyes were like saucers, peering out from under his oversized Little League cap, wandering through every corner of the stadium, soaking in the scene. The sunny Spring afternoon air held an obscurely distinct aroma that could only be described as a melange of hot dogs, peanuts, and freshly mown grass.
“Here we are,” said Grandfather, pointing to two empty seats in the front row of the right field bleachers. Grandfather placed his windbreaker down on the seat, sitting down. Like a copycat, the young boy did the same.
“You stay here and hold our seats,” said Grandfather. “I’ll be right back with hot dogs and Cokes…”
Grandfather got cut off as the Stadium Announcer asked the crowd to rise for the National Anthem. “Take off your hat and stand up,” instructed Grandfather. The young boy obliged. He’d never heard such a loud voice in his life, the booming P.A. echoing through the crowd of more than fifty thousand people.
The band began playing National Anthem as Grandfather stood still, unmoving. The curious young boy fidgeted, turning to see the rows of people standing behind him. He turned forward, standing on his tiptoes in wonder, looking to the sea of people to his left, the sea of people to his right, the immeasurable wall of people stacked to the sky on the other side of the immaculately prepared field.
“… and the home … of the … brave.” The band concluded the familiar melody as the crowd roared, gradually standing at ease, putting their hats back on, taking their seats. The boy did the same. Grandfather looked down at him.
“From now on,” began Grandfather, “Whenever you hear somebody play our country’s National Anthem, you stand still.” Grandfather’s voice was patient, yet stern. “You understand? Still.”
The young boy nodded.
“Good,” said Grandfather. He smiled. “Mustard and onions?”
And so the young boy grew to be an old man, and went to many baseball games, and heard the National Anthem many times. Over the years he taught his son, and his son’s sons, and his son’s sons’ sons, what his Grandfather taught him on that day long ago when he was a little boy at his first big league baseball game.