Archive for February 18th, 2021

I’m helplessly and permanently a Red Sox fan. It was like first love…You never forget. It’s special. It’s the first time I saw a ballpark. I’d thought nothing would ever replace cricket. Wow! Fenway Park at 7 o’clock in the evening. Oh, just, magic beyond magic: never got over that.

― Simon Schama

Maybe it takes the words of an esteemed British historian like Simon Schama to best describe the grand attraction of a ballpark when first seen in the waning light of the day, with the lights making the green grass and bright white chalk lines of the field pop into your eyes. I remember that feeling at Shea Stadium in the late 60’s, going up the darkened ramp from the concourse to the stands, emerging into a burst of deep colors and lights along with the buzz of the crowd increasing with each step forward.

It was magic beyond magic.

Baseball is back this week, with Spring Training beginning. For me, baseball is the canary in the coalmine. It felt odd and out of place last year with a raging pandemic and the country ripped apart by culture wars and the political apocalypse of an election that felt as existential as any we have had in recent times. Baseball was still there in a weird bubble that took away much of what made it important as a cultural touchstone.

It felt sporadic and detached.

Like most of us.

But it is coming back, as it always has each February, and with it comes the hope that we are nearing a point where we can sometime soon return to a form of normalcy. Where kids can experience that burst of color and light for themselves, can root loudly for slick fielding infielders and hard hitting sluggers. Where old farts like me can revel in the cyclical nature and routine of the game along with its esoteric details, its poetry, and its history. That

Author Michael Chabon, in his book Summerland, put words to my own feelings the game and how it echoes and rhymes with day to day life:

 The first and last duty of the lover of the game of baseball,” Peavine’s book began, “whether in the stands or on the field, is the same as that of the lover of life itself: to pay attention to it.

I have had trouble immersing myself in spectator sports this past year with all that is happening. But the start of Spring Training offers renewed hope. And that hope is a big part of the game. While personal glory and team victory are the goal, baseball is a game about how one copes with failure. It is a game of humility. The greatest players of all time failed more than they succeeded and most players go through their careers without winning the World Series. 

The hope is that if you give it your best effort, this pitch might be the big pitch or this catch will be the big catch. This hit might be the big hit.

This year might be the year.

It is a grand metaphor for the hardship and grace of life that repeats itself 162 times a year. Like life, it offers us everything if only we pay attention.

Pay attention and have a good day.

Here’s a favorite baseball tune from Mabel Scott to kick off the season:

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