The Monday before pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report for spring training, another arrival was on the way. We don’t know if this one will be a left-hander or a right-hander. We don’t even know if he’ll play baseball, because his dad plays soccer and his mom is a dancer. We do know that he arrived just when he was supposed to — and that his form was perfect.
So, on the Monday that signals the end of winter for those who view the day when pitchers and catchers report the start of spring, I was in St. Mary’s County. And my mind wasn’t on baseball.
The contractions started on Groundhog Day, before Punxsutawney Phil made a public appearance, didn’t see his shadow and was cheered for signaling an early spring. My wife, Barb, whose shadow was seen when she was born on Groundhog Day, and I made the trip to St. Mary’s to be with our second-youngest daughter Kaitlin, her husband, Jason, and their 2-year-old daughter Maika. A son, Rhys Christensen, was on the way, but the contractions had stopped by the time we arrived. They didn’t return on Sunday, and Barb and I contemplated going back to our Baltimore home that evening. But Kait and Jason asked us to stay, just in case. It was a good call, because the contractions resumed just after midnight.
In the morning, we made the drive to Historic Leonardtown, which is where St. Mary’s Hospital is located. Kait wanted to be in the ballpark, so to speak — near the hospital as Jason timed the duration and time between contractions. We parked near a Dunkin’ Donuts and decided to walk in Leonardtown and down the hill to the wharf. We had spring-like weather as we walked through the town with a retro look and feel and retro cars inside the showroom of Winegardner Motor Company. On the sidewalk, we found four pennies. It was February 4th. Our daughter Kelly was born on April 4th, which also happened to be Opening Day in 1983. My sisters Colleen and Valerie also share April 4th birthdays, although not happily until they became adults.
Kaitlin’s sisters, Kristin and Karalin, joined us in the early afternoon, and we ate lunch at Jessie’s Kitchen. Occasionally, the conversation would stop during a contraction. They were getting more intense and coming closer together, but Kait wanted to walk some more. We made a second trip through town, and back down the hill to the wharf bordered by Breton Bay, whose water was still frozen in places. We skipped some stones over the ice, using a sidearm motion to get as close to the surface as we could.
After another climb back up the hill and through town, we stopped in Dunkin’ Donuts, where Kaitlin gave a progress report to her midwife at the hospital. They agreed it was time to come over. It was 4:30 p.m. At 9:04, Rhys was born, weighing in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces. There were no performance-enhancing drugs, just a natural birth marked by tears of joy.
So, on a day when Tom Brady stood beaming on a platform with Mickey Mouse as confetti filled the sky at Walt Disney World, we had a more precious gift to celebrate in a hospital room in St. Mary’s. We don’t know if he’ll be a right-hander or a left-hander. We don’t even know if he’ll play baseball. But we know he is loved.
And, I’ll remember that he came when we were waiting for pitchers and catchers to report. What a grand time spring training is.
Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.