Someone asked the other day, “What’s Henry into these days?” My answer: baseball. And, hold onto your baseball caps, folks, Brad is into baseball. It even seems to have superceded his espresso obsession. (This is Brad’s new espresso machine. Yes, there is an english language version of the website, but the italian is so much sexier.)

So, we’ve become baseball people. We’ve read Moneyball and scads of other baseball books. Bill James, Billy Beane and the whole statistical revolution going on in the game these days have been much discussed. But, back to Henry.

Back in May, we took Henry to a ballgame. Earlier, I had gone to the ballpark with Audrey, a friend from the Amazon days, and thought Brad and Henry might like it. There’s lots to do at Safeco Field; it’s a pleasant environment, it has nice views of the water, city, and railroad. The food is decent. I figured it would be a nice, one-time sort of activity. I did not figure we’d watch much baseball.

Surprise! Not only did Henry love visiting Safeco Field, from the freight train that delayed us on our way to park at the game to the hot dog and Dippin’ Dots he ate, but he also liked the game. He asked a lot of questions: who’s at bat? who’s that player standing there? what does the pitcher do?. In typical Henry fashion, he latched onto the jargon first: “struck that guy out,” “a long fly ball to right field… slicing foul,” “grand slam, goodbye baseball,” “slider, low and inside.” At first, I’m sure he was imitating the announcers and people around him without much understanding, but he just kept building this structure of baseball language; now, there’s quite a bit of baseball comprehension there too.

Of course, we’ve been playing lots of baseball. It’s taken most of the summer, but Henry can now hit a wiffle ball pitched to him. If we’re somewhere without a bat and ball, that doesn’t stop him. He’ll pretend to pitch, hit, catch fly balls, and, best of all, slide into home.

It’s weird. Baseball has provided this unexpected framework for observing Henry’s development, in many areas. His experiences as a fan in the crowd encompass emotional and communal learning: when to cheer, how other people cheer or express disappointment, everyone singing the national anthem and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” sitting in assigned seats, maneuvering in crowds. He’s learned a whole new baseball language and understands what a lot of it looks like played out on the field. He knows there are rules and procedures to be followed in a game. Teams take turns; umpires are the authorities; authorities can be argued with. Physically, he can catch, dive for grounders, hit a ball, run around the bases in the proper order. He can’t read yet, but somehow recognizes all of the American League team logos. And, he recognizes Mariners player jerseys he sees worn by other fans. “That guy’s wearin’ an Edgar Martinez shirt!” If I miss a play in the ballgame, he can fill me in on what happened. He’s also been into these long monologues about what might happen in games, creating his own stories. Along the lines of: “That ball Mike Cameron hit is gonna bounce off the foul pole into the upper deck and then fall down into the crowd below and ricochet off the Mariner Moose’s head!” And on and on.

Okay, maybe I’m a bit too obsessed with baseball and child development, and their intersection. Mostly, it has been fun! Go Mariners! Wild card!