Remembrance of Wifflebats Past

I wandered the forgotten, half-stocked shelves of the back corner of the low-end department store like a ghost, weaving through a graveyard of display model car seats and pressboard cribs. On the walls hung plastic wrapped in plastic, pink and light blue devices, the last bastion of comic sans font. I waded through reams of onesies with messages like “First Round Draft Pick” and “Daddy’s Little Angel”, with disdain my machete. We were still in book, I thought to myself. The nursery was painted, the ultrasounds studied with burgeoning horror, our diaper philosophy established. All was proceeding.

I had long since lost the reason for being there. My wife unseen called out questions from the southeast, but I was far away, back in my own childhood. Growing up in 1980s suburbia, where crime waves consisted of vandalism, my parents would allow me to explore alone the wide, beige-tiled aisles of the local general store, and I would stare at all that colorful plastic and the potential that was vacuum sealed within. I coveted it all: wind-up pocket toys, board games, sports equipment. With my little senses I drank in the untapped fun.

I’ve failed, in my own little liberal arts degree way, to live up to the economic status of my hardworking parents. I’ve long grown accustomed to my own poverty, and since my wife volunteered herself into our collective cause, she’s accepted her own lead crown. But looking at all this stuff – and there is no better word for it – adorning the shelves, beaming with its own uselessness, I felt regret. I probably won’t be able to waste money on dumb things for my daughter the way my parents did for me, thanks to life choices squandered fifteen years hence.

It was under this cloud that I sulked aimlessly, until I stumbled across this:

princess bat

Every prospective parent, I’m told, has that cold moment of liquidity, that sudden realization that parenthood involves actual lifestyle repercussions. I had thought I was ready; I had read all the way through The Expectant Father, used Lamaze to get through my Lamaze class. I had accepted in theory that some inert, helpless and defecatory machine would be entirely dependent on me. Six months of training and I had mastered the concept of the infant. But instead I stood facing a Disney Princess wifflebat, and thought: what if this is the natural conclusion?

I’m by no means egotistical enough to assume that my daughter will want the things I want. Certainly, I can imagine watching baseball games with her on Sunday afternoons, as she spreads her Duplos and then eventually Legos out on the family room carpet. I hear Rick Rizzs whispering the play-by-play on the car stereo as we head up to Grandma’s house. I envision dumping out a box full of 1989 Donruss cards and helping her make a collage out of all the disembodied heads we cut out together. I picture summmer games of wiffleball, patient and lazy games.

But maybe it won’t go as planned. Maybe she won’t like baseball, and beg me to change the TV over to My Little Pony every time the game is on. Maybe she doesn’t like the collage because it’s got too many mustaches, and not enough pink. Maybe she only wants to play with toys with princesses on them. Maybe my daughter will want to grow up to be… a girl.

There’s no use worrying, I suppose. She’ll grow up the way she’ll grow up. But just to be safe, I’ll use the voice of Vin Scully as white noise for her crib. It never hurts to plant a madeleine.

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Patrick Dubuque writes for NotGraphs and The Hardball Times, and he served as former Bill Spaceman Lee Visiting Professor for Baseball Exploration at Pitchers & Poets. Follow him on Twitter @euqubud.

9 Responses to “Remembrance of Wifflebats Past”

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  1. manuscript says:

    real good.

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  2. Luke says:

    Well struck

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  3. olethros says:

    Thank whatever malignant deities might be out there that I have two sons.

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  4. Ransom says:

    Fantastic piece Patrick. As a baseball-loving dad, I actually bought a very similar princess bat for my 3-year-old daughter. I’ve pitched her a few and she has a contact rate lower than Colby Rasmus. She mostly likes to use the bat like a field hockey stick and watch me chase the ball out into our street. You know what though? After spending time doing anything with her and seeing the joy she takes in the time spent, and hearing her tell me that she loves me, I have found that, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter too much to me if she likes baseball or not.

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  5. Nav says:

    A great read, Patrick. Here’s to being poor forever. Cheers.

    And, hey: Congratulations. I wish you and your soon to be actual family nothing but the best.

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  6. A girl says:

    I think most parents probably have the fear of “what if my kid doesn’t like what I like?”, so I absolutely see what you’re getting at here. But even if your daughter does like pink and My Little Pony, that doesn’t mean she can’t like baseball, too. Are you going to be any less proud of that first crack of plastic wiffle bat on plastic wiffle ball if the bat has princesses on it?

    I’m not a huge fan of pink, myself, but I do like sparkles, and shoes, and cute animals, and I am, by any relevant definition, a girl. And thanks to my dad, I love baseball. We talk about it every week (unfortunately for us, we mostly talk about the Mariners, but it’s an important connection nonetheless). I hope you and your daughter get to do the same, no matter what colors she likes.

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    • I won’t be any less proud of her, truly.

      Right now I’m just reacting because it’s Baby Shower Season, and my feminism bristles at the gender-normative paraphernalia that comes with it. Baby girl gear is almost desperate to imprint a sense of femininity on babies, to avoid that horror that it might be confused for a boy for five seconds. Clothes are so pink they stain the retinas.

      I guess it’s not that I’m worried that she’ll choose her own path – I want her to choose her own path, and be happy. I’m more worried that a thousand marketing departments will teach her what it means to be “a girl” before she can decide for herself. But that’s what parenting is for, I guess, and that’s way way too heavy for a NotGraphs article, as if this wasn’t already.

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  7. JBentley says:

    “I’ve failed, in my own liberal arts way…” is the best sentence I’ve read in a long time.

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  8. twigman says:

    Pat, I promise to do everything in my power to help her truly appreciate Legos. Even pink ones.

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