Sunday, April 05, 2009

Play Ball!

"The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again." - James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams (1989)

So begins another season of Major League Baseball. Tonight was the official opening night but the season hits its stride tomorrow. Baseball has always had a place in my heart, I've been a fan since I was a kid. I remember going to my first Dodger game and being blown away. It seemed so huge to me, a magic fairy castle filled with dragons and knights. As I got older I spent more time at Chavez Ravine. When I was sixteen I'd go with my dad and he'd make me drive, including navigating the parking lot once the game ended. That was a challenge. I went with my friends and we'd squeal over the cute ball players. I had my favorites and I'd follow their stats with the devotion of a "Twilight" fan. I fretted for my Boys in Blue, worrying when they had to face the Evil San Francisco Giants, a team so villainous they made Orcs look like Sunday school teachers. By the way, I still feel this way. And don't get me started on the Yankees....

I don't go to Dodger Stadium much anymore. I married an Angels fan and Angel Stadium isn't far from my house. But I still get overwhelmed when get inside a stadium. Ball parks are still fairy castles to me. Is there any deeper green than the grass on a baseball diamond? The color of the clay used in the infield is a vibrant red, full of life and promising action. And there are the warriors, men armed with a small piece of ash who must hit a fist-sized orb hurtling at them at 95 miles an hour. They don't hit them very often but when they do, the heart leaps at the sound.

I think part of my affection for baseball comes from my love of history. And baseball is history. It is as attached to its own history as any other institution, maybe more so. The power of the past is always there, influencing the way the game is played. We constantly compare our modern players to men who died sixty years ago. And people who are obsessed with the game can rattle off statistics with frightening accuracy. My husband can rattle off numbers of people who died 20 years before his birth. He can name the starting infield for the 1969 Mets. Just don't ask him what he had for breakfast, you will get a blank stare.

Baseball is a summer game, its is played with redolence, a slow game for a hot summer's day. Baseball is a game with strict parameters. It likes to believe in its honor, the rules are strict and allow for no cheating. Hence the horror over the whole steroid thing. Beyond the health issues, its cheating and baseball hates cheating. Basketball and hockey are fast games, where players can foul and use those penalties to their advantage. Football is violent by its nature, a crushing game where a little blood is a good thing. Mind you, I enjoy those other sports, but they don't captivate me the way baseball does.

I welcome opening day with optimism and joy, prepared to watch the epic battles played out on grass and dirt. I look forward to a fresh season which brings back old memories.

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