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It was a perfect summer evening, and if a picture didn’t form in your mind when you read that, I feel sorry for you.

My wife and I spent the evening chaperoning Grandchild Number 5 at a minor league baseball game.

We weren’t originally scheduled to be going, but a stomach bug in their household, plus a few other complications had us pinch hitting.

Get that? Pinch-hitting in a column about baseball. I am so clever.

Number Five just turned 5, so the cumbersome car seat is still a thing. I yearn for the day when I can just yell, “Get in the car!” and there are no requirements other than enough seatbelts. I know that day will come, and I’ll probably be sorry when they’re all grown up, but right now it’s a bother.

The early evening temperature was in the mid-80’s when we picked him up. I wore my anti-skin cancer hat and carried a light jacket in case it cooled off too much. There had been talk of staying for fireworks after the game and Minnesota weather can’t be reliably predicted more than about three hours in advance. I didn’t bring snowshoes, but there were plenty of umbrellas in the car.

The stadium held about 2,000 people, so there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. We got hot dogs, chips, and pop and settled in. I made additional trips for licorice, more hot dogs, and ice cream, plus a trip to the bathroom. At a major league ballpark, I would have had to call my banker for a loan by the eighth inning, but here my wallet was still more or less intact.

It was just so pleasant. Lots of little kids stumbling over your feet in search of licorice and hot dogs. An amiable mascot doing corny tricks, staff smiling and helpful. On one of my trips for food, I walked up a ramp lined with the photos of previous players and noticed one young man who’s now making millions of dollars hitting home runs in the major leagues. I thought about all the young men who clattered past that photo in their spikes, wearing their uniforms and pounding their mitts, seeing that photo and thinking, “He did it. Maybe I can, too.”

That’s a feeling a young person should have, that there’s a limitless future within grasp, available to anyone who’s willing to work hard enough.

A lot of us are losing that dream, that sense that success is within our reach, and it’s a pity.

The game was great. I’m sure there’s a dropoff in talent from the major leagues, but I can’t tell the difference between an 85 MPH fastball and one going 92. I saw a 350-foot home run that looked just as impressive as a 375-foot homer. We saw slick double plays, diving line-drive catches, and a few hard stares after called third strikes. I have no need to ever sit in a box seat at Yankee Stadium.

Number Five made it all through the game, pretty good for a five-year-old. He was smitten by the fireworks and skipped ahead of us down the sidewalk to the car. Once buckled in, there was some mention of further treats, but his grandmother didn’t make it past the third verse of a lullaby before he was asleep. He stayed that way until his dad carried him up to bed.

We live in a world that is often hard and ugly. People do brutal, inexplicable things, and our leaders seem largely useless to change that. Even a perfect summer evening doesn’t last forever, and we all know what comes next.

But that doesn’t change Saturday night, when a little boy laughed and cheered, families applauded talented young people working on their dreams, and fireworks sparkled in a soft summer night.

Our reality often falls short of our dreams. We can’t have everything. Luckily, we can make what we do have pretty wonderful.

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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