A Much-Deserved Reward

I politely remind my daughter to eat her dinner. It is five microwaved dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, and a handful of grapes. It is what she requested. It’s been sitting next to her for ten minutes, as she stares at the television where talking ponies with tattoos on their haunches are tackling some new dilemma through their teamwork, wit, and moxie.

The Mariners and Astros are scoreless after one inning. An inning that took much too long for an inning with no scoring in it. Someone was on base. I don’t remember who. It doesn’t matter.

I should have known better. I set the expectations too low from the start. I should have taken the time to clear the dining room table, and forced her to sit there in front of her plate away from the grasp of the LED glow. But it was late, and I’m tired. I manage to cut through the beam of light traveling from the screen to her brain as I again remind her, a little less politely this time, that she needs to eat her dinner and if she doesn’t there will be no treat, which I had promised earlier contingent upon the completion of this dinner. “I am,” she replies with the exasperation of a fourteen year old who has had enough of her father’s demands. She is three. She has eaten one grape. “You need to eat some chicken, too,” I reply as calmly as possible. “I will,” she fires back.

The potential is there. The meal she requested, in the place she wants to be, with a reward waiting for her at the end. I know she’s hungry. She’s got the tools, and the motivation. It’s time to put it together.

The Mariners and Astros are through 5 innings. There is no score. Why should there be? The general consensus is that scoring is entertaining, but there is an efficiency to a scoreless game that is not given enough credit. A zero-zero game has no cost, and no disruptions. It’s the purest version of the game, in that way. Clean.

I have been informed that the chicken is now too cold. “That’s because you waited too long to eat it,” I shoot back. My patience is thin. Her only reply is a blank stare. I reheat the formerly frozen, formerly microwaved dinosaur nuggets. I return the new and improved nuggets, and make sure I get eye contact. “You WILL eat these. Or you will NOT get a treat. Do you understand?” Her reply: “I want a treat.” I turn away, already mostly beaten down, hoping she doesn’t know this yet, and sigh “well then you know what you have to do.”

You know what you have to do. The task is clear. The benefits are substantial. There is a reward for those who successfully complete the task. All you have to do now, is execute.

Seven innings down, two to go. Potentially more, as the Mariners and Astros have yet to find a mutually agreeable way to ensure the game does indeed have an end. Scoring does not appear to be on the table.

It’s getting later. It’s been over thirty minutes since the initial blast of radiation hit the ice-cold pteranodons. Four and a half of them remain on the plate. Bedtime is creeping closer. The window of opportunity is closing. At this point, I know I have to start making concessions. Whatever level of success I hoped this night would have is now irrelevant. I need her to eat something, at the very least to ease my own guilt. The bargaining phase has begun. It’s time to take a slight step back tonight, for hopefully more successful future nights. “If you eat TWO WHOLE nuggets, you can still have a treat,” I tell her. “Can you do that for me?” I am begging and I’m not sure I’m hiding it all that well. “Fineee,” she replies.

In the top of the 8th inning, the Astros briefly considered reneging on the prior agreement with the Mariners to play this game forever. Paul Sewald delivered a swift rebuke, mowing down three Astros and sending the game to the bottom of the 8th. Now the Astros must pay.

Ten more minutes have passed. At this point it’s clear that not only is the original goal of completing the requested meal out of reach, the revised goal of two nuggets will not be met either. Not this time. I am trapped by my own compromise, and it’s too late to back out now. That would only make things worse. I take a deep breath. It sounds like surrender, but it’s not, I tell myself. It’s wisdom. “Just finish the nugget you have in your hand. Then you can be done.” She corrects me: “Then I can have a treat?” I pause, and accept defeat. “Yes.”

The bases are loaded. A former Mariner who is a current Astro is pitching to a former Astro, who is now a current Mariner. Two line items in an extensive transaction log. The former Mariner throws a pitch to the former Astro that he likely did not mean to throw, and it is deposited in the right field seats. Somewhere, a grandmother makes a sandwich. The Mariners lead 4-0.

My daughter finished the nugget-in-hand, two agonizing minutes after my final plea. Before it is swallowed the question blurts out. “Now can I have my treat?” It’s not really a question. Just a reminder to a defeated father. I walk into the garage, and return with a blue popsicle, per her request. “Thank you daddy!” I know she means it. What a good girl. She did it. She ate her dinner, just like I asked her to, and earned that popsicle. It is much-deserved.

The Mariners put a bow on a 4-0 victory over the juggernauts of the American League West, and the former Astro gets a shower from a cooler while discussing his heroic feat with Jen Mueller. This one is special. Soak it in, Mariners fans.

Jerry Dipoto has received a contract extension and a brand new job title: the first President of Baseball Operations in team history. It was the right thing to do. The alternatives were likely much more disastrous, and continuity and peace-of-mind absolutely count for something. The Mariners have not reached the postseason in two decades, but Jerry has taken steps with that goal in mind. He should be given the chance to take the rest of those steps across the finish line.

Congratulations to Jerry Dipoto and to my daughter on their well-earned, much-deserved rewards. In turn, I know they’ll reward us in the future.

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