My Identity as a Baseball Mom Became One of the Best Pieces of Me

My girlfriends and I are a generation of strength; we are independence seekers who did not set out in life to be labeled with a single moniker of Wife or Mother. Even those of us who took our husband’s name at the altar didn’t stop thinking about our history before we put on the white veil: our personal goals, college degrees, work accomplishments—none of them would be in vain.

But then a baby came along. Then maybe one or two more. As our kids got older and found their own passions in life, we couldn’t help but take on those passions, as well. Our identities morphed in ways we would have never imagined, all in the name of our kids doing something that they loved.

As hard as it is for my son’s to let go, it may be even harder for me. (Photo credit: Betsy Hegan)

My boys tried every sport and settled on baseball

Between my two boys, they played almost every sport offered at their school and in neighborhood rec leagues and parks. Some sports lasted only a brief season or two before they moved on (insert picture here of my older son sitting on the soccer sidelines, more interested in eating orange slices with his best friend than actually playing the game).

Other sports made it more than a few seasons (insert here four years of me bemoaning the irony of sitting next to a pool, but not being able to actually get in it, for 4-hour swim meets in the late afternoon Florida heat). But baseball.

Baseball was the one that stuck, first hitting off of a tee with parents standing at every base so the kids knew where to run, then moving on to a machine that hurled the ball toward them.

The real magic happened when my sons began to pitch

The real magic happened at eight years old, when the coach put the baseball in their hands and taught them how to pitch. First my older son, and then his brother two years later; they loved nothing more than standing on the mound staring down a batter, wrapping their hands just so around the small white ball, red laces under their dirty fingertips. And so began the love affair of our lives, and my new identity became a “Baseball Mom.”

We were the classic baseball family, rolling from fall ball to the spring season and into all-stars in the summer. Spring break was a laughable concept (leave town in the middle of baseball season? Blasphemy!), and any summer vacations were squeezed into the three-week break between all-star season ending and school starting.

My husband coached both of our boys until they were ready to step onto the high school field. If only we had known that by getting married years earlier in July, we would spend countless anniversaries apart due to being in “conquer and divide” mode with our boys, because heaven forbid the baseball gods held tournaments in the same cities for different age groups at the same time.

The other baseball moms and I were a community

The other baseball moms and I shared tips on how to wash sweat stains out of hats; we compared notes on complicated six-step methods of getting white baseball pants clean. They understood that when one of my boys was on the mound, I would leave the stands to go pace nervously by myself, away from everyone else. 

Ask any mom of a child with a passion about the downsides and she will give you a litany of complaints. The hockey moms talk about the high costs of equipment and travel spent finding ice time at a rink. Moms of cross country runners spend their time at meets literally running the course themselves, trying to get a four-second glimpse of their kids flying past them.

Dance moms spend endless hours in auditoriums, the worst being recital time of year when they are surrounded by dozens of bobby pins, glitter and tears. The constant worry about injuries and concussions never ends for the football moms.

As a baseball mom, there was plenty to complain about, as well. There was the insufferable heat of games in late July, the inability to plan any type of vacation without consulting tournament schedules, the futile time and energy wasted on scrubbing dirt stains out of baseball pants, only to have them show up in the hamper the next day, even dirtier than the day before.

As of this month, I’m no longer a “baseball mom.” (Credit: Betsy Hegan)

As of this month my baseball mom days have ended

But as of this month, my baseball mom days have come to an end. My younger son suffered a career-ending injury as a college sophomore, and the other just graduated, finishing his baseball career on a mound in upstate New York at college conference playoffs. I can’t lie: it has hit me much harder than I ever would have anticipated. Who am I if not a baseball mom? One would think that it wouldn’t be such a difficult thing.

My calendar is no longer ruled by juggling tournament schedules and making sure I can be on Wi-Fi to stream the games that I cannot attend. My husband and I can actually go away for a weekend to celebrate our anniversary. I have so many ways of filling my life. But looking back, all of the complaints were really only half-hearted.

The steamy summer afternoons at the ballpark with hair stuck to the back of my neck by the end of the second inning, the overcooked delivery pizzas eaten for dinner by the hotel pool with 12 other families after a long day of games, the countless hours at the dinner table listening to my boys talk pitching grips with their dad: I loved all of it.

I have carved out my own fulfillment but being a baseball mom was one of the best pieces of me

Baseball and my boys’ love for the game shaped our days; some of our best family memories took place at a baseball park. From the time my youngest son was about eight, the majority of our family photos were taken after a tournament, on a grass field, often with at least one family member sporting eye black smeared across his cheeks.

I have always carved out my own pieces of fulfillment. Being a mom has not tampered my craving to live a meaningful and adventurous life. But over the years, my identity as a baseball mom became one of the best pieces of myself.

I loved being a part of something that was so important to my boys. But there is not a precarious mountain I could hike that will ever make my stomach drop like watching one of my boys walk out to the mound with bases loaded and only one out, my hands clenching and unclenching as they warm up, getting ready to get their team out of a jam.

My sons make me proud in many ways but watching them pitch is heady

There are a hundred ways that my boys make me proud, but there is something that catches in my heart when I see them do something I never could, throwing the ball 60 feet and six inches from the mound to home plate, all sinewy muscle and concentration and dirt and sweat.

Watching them do it, I can hardly believe that those boys came from my own body; those arms that can throw a ball over 90 mph were the same arms that reached up for me to hold them as babies, wrapping their tiny fingers around my hair with their head on my shoulder. I could recognize each of my boys’ pitching motions from a mile away. The images are imprinted on my heart forever.

For the last 15 years, my keychain has been a small rectangle made from the leather of a baseball mitt with a heart-shaped cutout stitched with red laces in the middle. I roll that leather in between my fingers now, and feel like I could never find my car without my keys on that keychain. I wore the baseball mom badge for almost 20 years, and while baseball wasn’t my whole life, it was a badge of honor because baseball meant everything to my boys. And what mom doesn’t want her kids to experience a passion like that?  

It’s hard for my sons to say goodbye to baseball but almost harder for me

Baseball has been my boys’ great love for years, and as hard as it was for them to say goodbye to it, it’s been almost as hard to accept that part of my identity has also come to an end. Our mom identities shift without us ever realizing it, like standing at the edge of the ocean when your feet get stuck in the sand as the water washes back out from the shore. We are in the middle of something before we know it, and just as quickly it can change.

Even when you walk away, the sand stays stuck to your ankles and shins, long after you’ve left the beach. We should consider ourselves lucky enough to play a part in our children’s passions, to stand on those fields and in those auditoriums, holding our breath as we watch them. It was the gift of a lifetime to have a front row seat in the stands to share the journey with my boys. 

More Great Reading:

Who Am I If I’m Not a ‘Sports Mom’ Anymore?

About Betsy Rathburn Hegan

Betsy Rathburn Hegan’s writing has included 3rd grade short stories, college literary magazine essays, freelance editorial work and finely crafted emails to her children’s teachers in middle school. A midwesterner at heart, Betsy lives in Jacksonville, FL with her husband, adorable dog, and (occasionally) two boys who attend colleges further away than she would like.

Read more posts by Betsy

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.