For the past fifteen years, I have spent a huge portion of my time perched on the bleachers of a baseball diamond. My younger brother, now eighteen years old, is the main reason I know almost every rule of the game.

He is the only reason I learned to love the game at all.

I have watched inning after inning in the blazing Alabama heat. I have watched games in dusty snowfalls. I have stood in mud puddles behind chain-link fences, with summer rain pelting the tops of my feet as I watched my brother round first for the umpteenth time.

And I have loved every moment.

I have loved the quiet stillness during the singing of the national anthem. I have loved the hearty cry of fans the second it ends. The crack of a bat meeting the red-laced ball has become my favorite song. My heart is stronger after skipping so many beats during a long throw from the plate to second. Somewhere along the way, the dust that stirred at home plate crossed the chain-link fence and seeped into my skin.

I don’t know when I began loving the game. It certainly wasn’t in the hot summer of my seventh year. Johnathan was three and preferred pulling grass from the earth to chasing a silly white ball. And I preferred reading to watching him stand in the outfield with his glove on his head.

But sometime between then and now, I fell in love with baseball.

Even more, I fell in love with the family that sat beside me in the bleachers. We share no DNA but are bound together as if by blood. Our ties that bind are living and breathing, standing with gloves on their hands and brave hearts beating inside their chests.

I often tease my parents about Johnathan being the golden child, the favorite in our family. Though I joke and know truly they don’t have a favorite among us, in my heart, I know I do. He is the golden child to me, my favorite baseball player to ever take the field. I stand close and hope some of his bravery and courage will drift from his heart into my own. My greatest pride is in telling others that I am his big sister.

He is the golden child to me.

In a few hours, he’ll stand behind the plate for the last time in his high school career. And I’ll be in the stands, covered in sunscreen and cheering my very loudest. Like always. I’ll be there, heart and soul. For the love of the game, for the love of Flame baseball, and mostly, for the love of number twenty-two.