Well, well, well - another first Monday in April has come upon us. And again, we here in the Charmed City sit with new hope, new life, and a new lease on enjoying ourselves for an entire summer. Baseball brings about, in red blooded American's, the peace that comes with watching a spatial game that we at one time all participated in, being played in serenity, very quietly, very near, and throughout the duration of the summer, what seemed to be, very patiently.
When I think of the return of baseball I am lifted to remember summer smells of grass, dirt on my pants, farmer's tans, homerun derby 2 hours before a game, and John Miller on the radio during the ride home from my games. I am forced to recollect clinking of bats and popping of mitts. There is something about diving on cool grass in July, or taking in a light lunch between games in a double header that still brings tingles to my spine. While the games we will all watch today does not fully encompass these original virtues of the Nation's pastime, they are not far off.
I remember being a huge Cal Ripken fan as a child. Every boy in Baltimore who was an Oriole fan loved Cal Ripken as a kid. It was only as you grew up that you started to maybe identify with different players. But, I remember being 8 years old and running to the kitchen every time Cal was on deck to poor a coffee cup full of milk so that I could run back to the TV, sit on my knees, and do my strange "Cal get a hit!" routine. I would drink a sip of milk before every pitch and when he got a hit, I knew it was because of my faith.
Today I will sit with friends and talk about the joy of talking about nothing. Football talk is boring, heavy, blunt, and without mystery. "They should run more. They should pass more. He was open. Nice block". Yawn. Baseball conversation is debate brought about by knowledge which once tied into passion. Football conversation is usually done with too much bravado, too much noise, too much novice information, and most people rarely played the game passed the High School level. But baseball is something that most people have followed their whole lives. Therefore, you can sit with anyone for 2 hours and not say a word. You will grunt together at a hanging 1-2 curveball hit by the opposing team into the left field gap. You will slump a little when the cutoff man is missed. You will chuckle at the third to first pickoff play and may even utter a slight, "Kid's move." at the TV screen. You will sit up a little straighter when the ball comes off the bat at a thundered 40 degree angle. You will move your shoulders as if you were the umpire when your pitcher paints the black with a 2-2 fastball.
The festivities that surround baseball are not the same as other sports. And the time invested in learning the game, appreciating the game, and watching the game are matched by no other investment I have known. I have spent more time watching, playing, and attempting to understand the game of baseball than I have spent vested in any other endeavor throughout my lifetime. And this includes every year of schooling added up and put together. Those who never played will only root in hollow tones.Those blue collared American sons and daughter who spent their summers playing the game of generations past will raise eyes with anticipation, and hope for more than a few weeks, that this might be the year, that something special will happen on this pitch, that this will be the savior of our team. There will be winning streaks and good luck. There will be clutch hits that show the gleam of everything good about the game in one person's smile. There will be fans crowded around the TV today wanting to believe that this team they pull for and support could bring them some sort of satisfaction and relief.
Thank God for the return of baseball. Thank God for cool summer days and easy weekday nights spent watching the team that we love. Thank you for the return or what we knew as a child and the chance at one year of rekindled friendships, pregnant feelings of hope, and the peaceful ease that comes from hearing the words, "And the Orioles take the field." Innocene reborn through watching grown men play a child's game.