My son, grandson, and I watch the Yankees on ESPN. Now, admittedly, Jess and I have to explain a good deal of the game to 4-year-old Conley, but he's a fan. You can tell by the way he jumps up and down as we cheer Bernie Williams for doubling in the first two runs.
"Bernie will probably retire at the end of this season," I tell Conley as if he understands. "This could be the last time you'll see him."
"Bernie. That a silly name," Conley responds.
Still, he appreciates the essence of the game. His reactions are honest, offering none of the forced grunting of football. He simply sucks down his favorite beverage - cold milk - and imitates the players by swinging his yellow plastic bat as if swatting flies. We try showing him a two-handed grip, but decide it's dangerous messing too much with a man's natural stance.
The game progresses in its thoughtful, take-your-time-and-wait-for-your-pitch manner. I doze. But out of that corner of the mind that's always awake during a game, I hear Jess patiently explaining to his son why the infielders are playing in, just as I had done many times with him.
And my father had done with me.
The batter bunts. A-Rod charges the third base line and throws out the lead runner.
"Your daddy called that one," I say, opening my eyes.
"Wow," Conley says. "You wake up, Papa."
"Just pacing myself for the last few innings," I respond.
Jess laughs. I recall my father falling asleep in front of the game, mouth open, snoring.
We watch the Yankees put runners on first and third with no outs. "That's why they were going so deep into the count early on," I say. "What's he up to? Over 100 pitches, I think. And it's only the sixth inning." With that, Giambi blasts one into the upper deck in right field.
"Yes!" Jess and I shout. We both move to the edge of our chairs and clap our hands at the same time.
"Yes!" Conley repeats, clapping his little hands.
Later, Conley naps on my chest as Rivera secures the last three outs of the game with his easy, efficient motion.
Jess and I plan to take Conley to a game. He wonders how Conley will deal with the height since we usually get cheap bleacher seats. I remember watching the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field with my dad.
"He'll do fine," I say. "As long as you ply him with hot dogs and peanuts - the way I did you."