Thursday, February 7, 2013

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By Ellen Bell - AngelsWin.com Columnist

He was nine years old. Even though I’m only 5’3, I could rest my arm on his shoulder. His red hair was trimmed in a neat, military buzz cut and his eager face was covered with freckles.  We were on a quest.



It was 2003. The Angels were World Series Champions and we couldn’t wait for another season to start. So we boarded an airplane for Phoenix. Just my boy and me.

We arrived at The Buttes hotel after dark and, as we walked towards our room, we saw a bright light at the end of the hall. We followed it outside and found that we were overlooking Tempe Diablo Stadium, fully lit and ready for the next day’s game.

We stood there together in the darkness, gazing at the glowing baseball field. He turned to me and managed an awestruck whisper.

“This is so cool...”

What began on that first weekend in March continued to be an annual tradition for my son and me. We worked around NJB basketball games, spring sicknesses, and part time job schedules to make it every year. Many times he brought a friend. A few years his younger sister joined in. But every Spring Training trip had one common denominator: my son and I watched baseball together.

Over the years, we filled baseballs with autographs and our hearts with memories. Like the quiet of morning field practice broken only by the sound of Troy Percival’s grunt as he threw off the mound. The casual power of Mark Trumbo during batting practice, as he sprayed the field with towering shots, sending balls over the fence and bouncing them off the scoreboard. The joy of my boy as he shagged home run balls fresh off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero.

Every season brought changes to our team, and to my boy. He went from an exuberant kid who couldn’t stop talking, to a reflective young man of few words. My short, skinny son now towers over me at 6 feet. Years ago, he wanted to share my popcorn. Now he wants to share my beer.

But for all the changes, we have stayed true to the Angels and to each other. Lately, it’s one of the only times when it’s just the two of us. You’d think a 20 year old wouldn’t want to hang out with his mother. But for a few days in Arizona every spring, we have a lot in common. We love baseball.

Last year, instead of traveling together, we met at the Phoenix Airport after he flew in from college. He looked different somehow, the way he always looks when he’s been away for a few months. More grown up. More independent. But when we settled in to our seats behind home plate, hot dogs in hand, he turned to me with an expression I could still recognize.

“Mom, this is so cool..”

Follow Ellen Bell on Twitter @AfternoonAngel
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