Sunday, April 5, 2009

Play Ball!

Today marks another opening day for baseball, and I'm visited by some wonderful memories of my youth. Baseball does that to a person. It is a constant - in our DNA. It's always been here and always will be.

I think back to spring mornings, and walking to our neighborhood convenience store on a beautiful spring day with my brother for baseball cards, and then walking home, talking about who we got in our packages, and attempting to chew the rock-hard gum that must have resulted in most of my childhood dental bills. I remember my grandmothers - both big baseball fans. They were incredibly knowledgeable in the game, followed their teams closely and with a passion, and in Grandma Peg's case, susceptible to cheering for a slug like Clint Hurdle because "he's good lookin'!"

Since smell is the sense most tied to memory, every time I smell a certain brand of cigarettes, I'm immediately taken back to the Met stadium, standing in line with my dad and my brother, waiting to get a Schweigert hot dog.

I'm visited by memories hundreds of games of baseball and softball in which I played - some organized, some pick up - and think of the friends and family with whom I played. I think of recent things, too, like the last game that my dad and I attended together on Father's Day, the road trips my wife and I have made to Chicago and Kansas City, and the summer ritual of having dinner in front of the TV and watching the Twins.

There's something inherently optimistic about Spring - it is a time where just about anything could happen, and so too is it with baseball. At the start of the season, any player could develop into a .300 hitter, any pitcher a winner of the Cy Young, any team a division champion, if only a few things break their way. It is a reason for hope, a sanguine outlook, and an understanding that warmer days, cold beer, hot dogs, radio broadcasts at the cabin, "circle me Bert" signs, and a Justin Morneau upper-deck shot are just a few days away.

James Earl Jones says it much better than I:

Play ball. Play ball, indeed.

Now if you would excuse me, I need to find some time to get up to Rogers and have a catch with my dad.

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