Today was the first day of baseball’s spring training. Every Major League team played. The professionals all trotted onto dirt infields to punch gloves, swing bats, and make life a little better for those of us who are emotionally unstable enough to be called “fans.” Baseball is back.
I realize that not everyone cares about baseball, but last year, after our Atlanta Braves were decapitated by the Saint Louis Cardinals, it was like a nuclear holocaust at my house.
This pain can be traced back to my father, a lifelong Cardinals hater, who would have rolled in his grave after the upset. I will refrain from printing any unnecessary Cardinals jokes here because one or two Cardinals fans might know how to read.
Sorry. That was cheap. And I apologize. But I can’t help myself. Because I learned to love baseball during infanthood. My early days can be measured by red dirt stains and strained groin muscles. We would sweat all summer, rolling on grassy outfields, sliding into second,
stealing bites of Navy plug chew and pretending to be men.
Of course, I was no man. I was freckled, chubby, and an all-around unattractive kid. But when I was on the field, I felt like I was part of something big.
I did not grow up in an era of technology and smartphones. Mine was probably the last generation to experience an electronically quiet life. We rode bicycles to practice, gloves hanging over our handlebars. There was no internet, instead our elders fed us tales about growing up with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Ted Williams.
My father grew up during a time when the Yanks were a superpower. A time when the Dodgers finally defrocked the Bronx Bombers to become world champions. When Jackie Robinson was in the twilight of his career. Mickey Mantle was the American League’s top slugger. Hank Aaron was hitting .314. Willie Mays was unstoppable.