For the Love of Baseball
As I walk through the park I detect a change in the air. There’s a familiar electricity in the park that I can’t quite put my finger on. Winter seems to have turned the page and given way to spring, with clear skies and warmer weather. But there is something else, like a disturbance in the force, that has drawn my attention.
As I turn a corner in the park I discover a group of children in the middle of a baseball diamond gathered around an adult. Each child is about eight years old, wearing matching T-shirts and caps with matching logos. Blue jeans and tennis shoes generally round out their uniforms, but I do see a couple of pairs of pinstripe baseball pants. Nine of the children grab baseball gloves and run out to various positions on the field. Adults are gathered along the fence or sitting in beach chairs under Easy Ups, surrounded by ice chests and athletic bags.
It’s baseball season!!
As I draw closer, I begin to hear the sounds of the game: baseball bats thrown into a pile, cow hide ball hitting leather glove, and parents yelling encouragement to their young players. The familiar crack of the bat sends the players into motion, except for the young child in right field who has dropped his glove and is turning summersaults in the grass. When play has stopped, the coach offers encouragement and pointers to each of the players on the field.
I take a seat in the metal stands along the third base line and my mind wonders back to my memories of baseball. I never played organized baseball, based in part on my parent’s inability to pay the necessary fees and (more importantly) my lack of any discernable baseball talent. Oh I played over-the-line and three flies up as a child in the school yard across the street, but I never put on a pair of baseball spikes or the dreaded baseball cup. I did discover the joy of running in the outfield to track down a high fly in the gap with a dazzling over-the-shoulder catch. Well once or twice anyway.
No, the bulk of my baseball memories are from the standpoint of an observer or fan. My earliest memories involve sitting with my dad in our living room watching our beloved Minnesota Twins with Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva play the hated New York Yankees and Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. The “Game of the Week” was always shown on our black and white television on Saturday afternoon with Curt Gowdy and Pee Wee Reese announcing the game.
More recently, I remember seeing the Dodger’s Kirk Gibson hit his now famous homerun in the 1988 World Series against Dennis Eckersley and the Oakland A’s. Watching Gibson pump his fists as he made his agonizing trip around the bases to the call of Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully.
And nothing can replace the memories of Tuesdays and Saturdays at the park watching two of my sons play Little League baseball. Priceless!!
So a new baseball season is about to start with new memories to be made. Every team starts out with high hopes and the desire to “win it all.” Each fan has high expectations for the home team. There will be winners and there will be losers. It’s a love-hate relationship, baseball, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.