Springtime is here and in my mind, that means only one thing.
Baseball is back.
Winter reluctantly begins to lose its icy grip on the Midwest, the trees begin to bud, the grass starts growing, and the world seems to start afresh. New life returns to our part of the world, and so do hopes of baseball fans everywhere.
Last season, we saw the oldest dream in baseball come true in October and the second oldest dream failed to materialize. Again.
The Chicago Cubs, who had not won a World Series since 1908, defeated the Cleveland Indians, who had not won it all since 1948.
At this time last year, who would have guessed that would be the match up that fall?
That’s what makes this time of year so very special for baseball fans.
New hope is restored. All things seem possible. This is the year your team is going all the way.
Of course, by the midsummer all-star break, it will be apparent to many of the baseball faithful, they will have to wait for another spring to recapture that hope they have now. By that time, some will realize their team has a legitimate shot at the fall classic, and for others, their hopes are dashed, melting like spilled ice cubes on a sidewalk in the hot July sun.
But that time is not yet here.
Now is the time of the sound of the ball meeting the bat, the smell of fresh grass on the field, and a multitude of other comforting clichés that accompany the dawn of a new baseball season.
Cliché, yes, but for the baseball fan, it is a welcome ritual.
The ballpark is more than where a game with men dressed in colorful pajamas compete on real and fake grass. It is a hallowed place in American culture.
The old timers actually are revered for their accumulated memories of past seasons and when they speak of seeing great players of yesteryear, it is almost as if you are somehow transported back in time. It is also a comforting affirmation that the great players we have only read of, actually existed.
Fathers can teach their children to keep score. A new world of knowledge is unlocked. Now young people will understand what 6 to 4 to 3 means. And that newly grasped code of the game will bring joy or sadness to them forever, depending whether your team was at bat or in the field.
Nonetheless, when a youngster begins to grasp the intricacies of baseball jabberwocky, a whole new world opens up to them. They have come of age, in baseball speak. And once that threshold is crossed, the world seems to make more sense.
Baseball permeates the American lexicon.
“He threw me a curveball with that one,” indicates someone took you by surprise in speech or action.
Who doesn’t know what it means to give someone a “ballpark figure.” I think we are in the “same ballpark” where I am going with this.
When you got that A on the test, you know you really “knocked it out of the park!”
To someone who is consistent, we say “You’re batting a thousand!”
Which business doesn’t have its “big hitter?”
Or when we speak of moving up in the world, we say “Welcome to the big leagues!”
I am quite sure you can think of many more.
I don’t have space or time here to “cover all the bases” but you get the idea.
It is springtime and baseball is back. Just remember. At the ballpark, only hot dogs with mustard and relish are traditional fare.