Friday, April 16, 2010

An Irrational Love

I have an irrational love for Baseball. Yes, baseball. There's something about baseball that is just so right. It transports me back to my childhood. My mom says she played softball while I was baking in the womb. I realize I'm deviating a little from baseball to softball but the idea is the same. Bats, gloves, socks pulled up to the knees, caps pulled down over the eyes, diamonds, bases, the smell of hotdogs, 9 players on the field. My older sister and I attended many games when we were tow-headed little tykes. Catching sun, getting windburned, cheering with pride and gathering a love for the sport in our hearts. At least mine. My sister might not care at all.

Now my mom was a badass player. Her team was that team all the other league teams dreaded playing. They were that good. Mom played rover and had a killer sidearm throw you wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of. Believe that. One time a fly ball soared out of reach of the base[wo]man and mom, running fast to get under it, dove for it. She caught the ball in the edge of her glove as she turned a front somersault to return to her feet. Then she rocketed that ball to the catcher who tagged out the player sliding in to home plate. The best double-play of all time. I'm sure I saw it. I wish I remembered it. Yeah, that was my mom.
My mom also drank Mountain Dew while she was pregnant with me which resulted in my not being able to sit still for the first decade of my life. But that's a while other story all together.

Baseball evokes summertime. Can't you just smell the fresh mown grass? Feel the subtle grit of the sand collect on your upper lip as the umpire wipes home plate clean with the special brush he keeps in his back pocket? That's baseball. It has everything. Fencing, fighting, torture, true love, revenge. Oh heck, no, wait, that's The Princess Bride. But baseball has an essential element: Suspense. I hold my breath as the batter steps up to confront a 3/2, grinds his cleat into the dust, sticks his elbows out, wipe-grips the bat between ready hands, turns his head to eye the pitcher, and, if he's Moonlight Graham from Field of Dreams, he winks. Then the pitcher gets pissed and tries to put the ball into his ear. God, I love baseball.

Baseball embodies the essence of Americanism. Because after all wasn't America founded on Baseball? I'm sure the Founding Fathers played baseball to unwind after long days of debating which words to insert into The Declaration of Independence. Just hometown boys playing hometown games. Children playing using sticks for bats in the city streets, playing barefoot in parks, going for just one last inning past dark. Baseball kindles a sense of community, it unites where other things divide. There you are on the bleachers sharing a homemade sandwich with your neighbor as you talk ERAs and RBIs. You nearly explode with pride when one of your players hits a homer, pound your neighbor on the arm and laugh together when you realize he's nearly exploding with pride too. Somehow the baseball diamond reminds me of a time when America was made up of people, of mom and pop stores, of soda-fountains, of star filled nights where a ball gets lost in the gleam of the field lights--not of corporations or the rat race, something other than taxes and governmental interference. It's the land itself, it's a place, it's a home.  

Then there's the tactile thrill of the sport. The smell of a leather glove held up to your face. The sharp thwap of a bat connecting with a ball. The heat of the sun against your back while you stand at the ready in the outfield. The heat of the sun hitting the bill of your cap while you sit in the stands chanting, "Hey batta, batta, swing, batta, batta." The sound of cheers drowning out the dirt gouging shuffle of a succesful slide into third. The weight of the ball against your fingertips as you nod to the catcher's signals and wind-up for the pitch.
Are you there yet?


  1. Sigh! Playing softball was the all time highlight of my life!!!

  2. And just like Roy Hobbs - you were the best there ever was!!