Fandom: A Dad Plants The Seeds For A Shared Love Of Baseball Pete Van Vleet is a devoted Houston Astros fan. His daughter loves the Detroit Tigers. To help his infant son pick a team, he asked all 30 of them, "Why should my son choose you to be a fan?"
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Babies And Baseball: A Dad Plants The Seeds For A Shared Love Of The Game

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Babies And Baseball: A Dad Plants The Seeds For A Shared Love Of The Game

Babies And Baseball: A Dad Plants The Seeds For A Shared Love Of The Game

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, all this week, we're exploring fandom, what makes people fall in love, become fans of a show or a comic book series or a sports team like the Houston Astros, whose super fans include Pete Van Vleet. He's a father who wonders how to share his passion with his kids. He and his family discussed this at a baseball game in Virginia.

PETE VAN VLEET: We're here at The Diamond, home for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Who are you waving to, Madeline?

MADELINE: The mascots.

VAN VLEET: What are they?

MADELINE: Flying squirrels with clothes on.

VAN VLEET: Madeline is our first child. She is 6, and she right now is my - and has been my baseball buddy.

MADELINE: I like just being with Daddy sometimes.

VAN VLEET: All right, now that little ball in the dirt.

MADELINE: Why does he throw it in the dirt?

VAN VLEET: I think he's just trying to get him to swing at a bad pitch.

MADELINE: Yeah.

The Tigers are my favorite team because they are my favorite animal.

VAN VLEET: A team a person roots for says a lot about that person themself. When I was growing up, there was no team around us, so it was up to me to pick my own team, and the Astros had the coolest uniforms. They played in the Astrodome, which was just fantastic. And they suffered, and I will tell this quick story. I used to play baseball by myself in the backyard. I would pretend I was the Astros, and the team would lose. Even in my own imagination, the team would lose.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: The score is two to nothing, Houston.

VAN VLEET: This is something I will literally call up whenever I just need a pick-me-up. Some people go to certain songs. Some people go to cat videos. I go to clips of my Astros, and this is the first one I go to of those.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Now the hitter is Will Clark.

VAN VLEET: Mike Scott's on the mound, and he no-hits the San Francisco Giants, and that's how we reach the playoffs for the first time in five or six years.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: What a way to do it.

VAN VLEET: That was Neil Armstrong on the moon for me. That was everything.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: National League champions of the West.

VAN VLEET: We are blessed with two children. Jack is our youngest. Soon after Jack was born, I decided to write a letter to every team to ask them, why should my son choose you to be a fan? Eighteen major league teams sent us back letters or emails or packages. I'm holding in my hand now the letter we got in response from the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Reading) Dear Jack, the pirate ship has plenty of room on it for a young man from Ashland, Va. We would be honored if you would join our family and help us...

I have read this letter dozens of time, and I still get chills reading it. I just want him to pick the team that in his heart is going to - is going to grab his heart, going to capture his imagination and just going to steal him away for life.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) And the home of the brave.

(APPLAUSE)

VAN VLEET: I took Madeline to Baltimore to see the Tigers play, and we went to two games.

MADELINE: I like watching the Tigers play because of Miguel Cabrera. He usually hits home runs. He usually never misses.

VAN VLEET: And the first game was a night game, and around the fifth inning, she just kind of crawled in my lap. And I just kind of - I had to tell myself just remember this now. Remember this feeling and this moment now because five years from now, maybe less, she's not going to do this. And I know that's part of growing up, but at least we'll have that together now.

(APPLAUSE)

VAN VLEET: What I think drives people to fandom, I think there's some escapism to it. Whatever is going on in my life now or Madeline's life, that all kind of lifts off from your shoulder when you enter this cathedral of a ballpark. And for maybe a couple hours on a summer night, your problems aren't as big, your worries aren't as burdensome. You can enjoy life for that little bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIAN LAGE AND CHRIS ELDRIDGE'S "BONE COLLECTOR")

INSKEEP: Houston Astros fan Pete Van Vleet and family.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIAN LAGE AND CHRIS ELDRIDGE'S "BONE COLLECTOR")

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