Posts Tagged ‘Spring Training’

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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Vintage Baseball Photos 1800'sFor me,  Punxsutawney Phil is not the ultimate predictor that winter is coming to an end.  No, it is those first reports from Florida and Arizona that baseball’s Spring Training is beginning that does it for me.  The baseball is in the air  once more and I feel so much better when I am immersed in the rhythms of baseball.

And there is such a rhythm.  With its 162 games played over its six month season, it is present in some form on a daily basis for those who follow the game.  Each day brings something new that adds to the game’s long history, to its poetry and legend, to its voluminous statistics, to its never-ending debates over the superiority of teams, players and eras.  For someone like me who is a huge fan of the game’s folklore and history, nothing could be better.

Speaking of folklore, the photo at the top is perhaps the oldest image of the game, taken sometime before 1870.  It sold a few years ago on eBay for  $3800.  It shows a group of schoolboys at the Bluff School in Claremont, New Hampshire.  It was used in  Ken BurnsBaseball documentary and was taken by the early photographic studio of French & Sawyer which operated in Keene, NH.   Their partnership dissolved in 1870 so the photo was taken before that time.  It could be as early as the late 1850’s,  pre-Civil War.  The interesting thing is that there is action in the photo, a rarity for any photos of the era.  It also shows the players in positions that closely resemble today’s game which adds to that feeling of connection through time that is a part of the game.

The painting below is an early painting of the game.  I don’t know who painted it or when and can’t find anything about it.  It was listed on a folk art site and is no longer there so details on it are sketchy.  I think it’s a fun piece and reminds me that baseball is coming soon and winter is coming to an end.

The Pigs Baseball Club Ca 1890 21 x 30

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