It’s summertime, and for me, summertime always means baseball. You see, I fell in love with baseball when I was six years old. It was the first sport I ever loved, and the Houston Astros, my hometown team, were the first team of any kind I ever loved.
My grandpa on my dad’s side also loved baseball. When he visited Houston from overseas, my dad and I took him to Astros games. When I visited him in Japan (where he taught for many years as a literature prof before he retired back to Taiwan), he took me to see his favorite team, the Yomiuri Giants, and his favorite player, second baseman Toshio Shinozuka – his favorite because he reminded him of me.
But baseball was more than just something we both enjoyed. Because of his limited English and my limited Chinese, baseball became a common language for us. It took a lot of time, and some translation help from my dad, to explain ourselves to each other on most topics. But not when it came to baseball. Baseball was our lingua franca.
When the Houston Astros FINALLY made it to the World Series in 2005 – a moment I had waited for nearly my entire life – my dad was the first to call me, just minutes after the final out. Then my college roommate called.
And then, from across the ocean, my grandpa called. He had been watching the Astros clinch the National League on ESPN International. He knew what a big moment it was for me as a longtime, long-suffering Astros fan. We rejoiced together.
And after we hung up, I started bawling. I was deeply moved by my grandpa’s love for me, expressed in his keen interest in what I was interested in, a love for me so strong that unbeknownst to me, he was watching the same game and cheering the same plays that I was, half a world away.
My grandpa died a bit more than three years ago. Not surprisingly, many of my memories of him still center on baseball. And even after he died, baseball continued to serve as a bridge between us. I came across a book on the history of baseball in Taiwan, and lo and behold, there was Grandpa’s name! He was mentioned as someone who played a small but significant part in the birth of Taiwanese professional baseball.
Rest in peace, Grandpa. Some day, when the Astros finally win (and not just advance to) the World Series, I know you’ll be elated, too.
The majority of this column of Eugene’s first appeared on Stephanie Huang Porter’s blog, in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Connect with Eugene on Twitter via @eughung.