WASHINGTON -- As you may remember from my rants in previous columns, I don't approve of baby-naming as a creative art form. We are in the middle of an epidemic of preciousness, and there are no signs that it is abating. In 2016, more Americans named their sons "Camden" than "George." More chose "Maverick" than "Eric." "Messiah" was more popular than "Louis." Young ladies were not spared, either. "Riley," "Ryleigh" and "Rylee" all outscored "Rachel."
It is a god-awful trend. I believe choosing a name for your child is a solemn responsibility; it should not be subject to whim or caprice.
For reasons of family solidarity, however, I recently had to rethink my position. It happened when my daughter and son-in-law told me what they were going to name their soon-to-arrive baby boy. My first grandchild, they said, would get the name of whichever Washington Nationals starting pitcher took the mound on the day the baby was born.
I laughed, of course. What a funny joke to play on stuffy, cantankerous ol' granddad! Then I waited for them to reveal the serious historical or literary figure, or the venerable family member, for whom the child would actually be named. But no. This starting-rotation roulette was, apparently, kinda for real.
As you might guess, Molly and Julien are passionate Nationals fans, and fandom at that level permits -- indeed, commands -- certain emotional illogic. I'd seen it firsthand. My daughter and I were in attendance at the excruciating 6 1/2-hour playoff game of Oct. 4, 2014. As the afternoon turned into a bitterly frigid night, the Nats surrendered the lead and then lost in the 18th inning. Walking home, shivering, hollow-eyed and gut-punched, Molly kept saying in a pitiful monotone: "I just ... don't ... understand."
I do. I get it. I've known the same passion for a team. When Molly was born, it was not completely out of the question, as far as I was concerned, that she'd be named "Yogi Berra Weingarten." But this decision of theirs seemed a little more ... arbitrary.
Molly's due date was Aug. 30, but the day came and went and she was so far away from delivering that she and Julien went to the Nats game, enjoying a shutout by "Stephen" Strasburg while not being personally imperiled by that ho-hum name. And yet the next day, which was beginning to look more likely, the starting pitcher was "Giovany" Gonzalez. I started to panic.
Of course, pitching schedules are not set in stone. Sometimes teams call up minor leaguers for spot starts, particularly at this time of the year. I scanned the Nationals' minor-league rosters for promising young arms who might save me. I found one named "Brigham" and -- oh my God -- another named "Joan" Baez.
As it turns out, Aug. 31 passed uneventfully. Sept. 1 arrived, and with it, the beginning of Molly's labor, around 1 p.m., just a few hours before "Tanner" Roark was to take the mound for the Nationals. As far as I am concerned, "Tanner" is not even a name. It is an occupation that involves dehairing, degreasing and desalinating animal skins in a process so smelly that municipal laws sometimes require it to be practiced on the outskirts of town.
Now, I know it is impolite to suggest to a woman in hard labor that she "hold off" a bit. So I nervously bit my tongue. (Julien did not. As nurses hovered disapprovingly, he implored his valiant bride to tough it out past midnight.) Julien knew there was a narrow window with which to work. On Sept. 3, the Nats pitcher would be "Edwin" Jackson.
Molly did great. Max Kreuze, named for the guy who pitched on Sept. 2, Nats ace "Max" Scherzer, was born at 4:09 a.m. Young Max is handsome and alert, for a being who doesn't quite seem fully cooked yet.
I know what you are wondering. You are wondering about what his middle name is. Molly and Julien decided not to resort to any cheesy gimmicks for this one. Instead they chose to honor a beloved, deceased member of the family. The baby is Max "Harrison" Kreuze, named for Harry, Molly's childhood Labrador retriever.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
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