Why I Love Baseball

Baseball season is almost here. Hallelujah.

The sun is lowering over the trees on the horizon, and the sky is lit orange. The world is filled with light. The birds are chattering.

Baseball season is almost here. Hallelujah.

I am catching a game between two Little League teams. It’s an unofficial matchup. This is pre-spring training in a small town, where baseball is still something folks get excited about.

The kids are young, and still unclear on the rules of the game, but they’re trying.

A child hits a ground ball.

“RUN!” the parents in the bleachers cheer. The kid drops the bat. He sprints straight toward the pitcher, runs over the mound, leaps over second base, and keeps going until he collides with the centerfielder. And I love it.

Major League spring training starts today, and I can hardly stand myself. I’ve been counting down the days.

When I was a boy, my father and I listened to ball games on his Philco radio, or watched them on television. Almost every night of the summer, we kept a scorecard placed beside an AM speaker, and a bag of parched peanuts.

When we weren’t following baseball, we were playing catch. When we weren’t doing that, we were at Little League games, like this one. When we weren’t doing that, we were in church.

Of course, my childhood baseball career was cut short. My father died in a terrible way. It was the kind of death that makes everyone in a small town gasp when they read it in the papers.

It was though someone had erased the sun.

And something else bad happened on the same day of his passing. And I mean the ACTUAL DAY of his death.

It was an announcement on the national news. The commissioner of Major League Baseball stood at a podium and proclaimed that there would be no World Series that year.

It was the worst thing to happen in the history of the world since 1904.

To boys like me, it was like someone had cancelled the Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving, or pushed Santa Claus off a tall cliff, set his workshop on fire, and forced his elves to file for unemployment.

That was the worst year of my life.

What would I do? What was going to happen to us without a breadwinner? Who would raise me?

Also, what would happen to my favorite Major Leaguers? Would they be found bagging groceries at Piggly Wiggly? Would you walk into the store and see Greg Maddux wearing a red apron, asking if you need help out to your car? Would Bobby Cox be washing windshields for pocket change?

I sort of gave up talking that year. Besides, there wasn’t anything to talk about. My mother quit talking, too. And our house became a silent one.

Okay, that’s enough depressing facts for one column.

I’ll never forget the February after my father’s death. The newspapers announced that Major League spring training was scheduled to start. Reporters said the players and franchise owners had come to an agreement.

And baseball was back.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more grateful than I did that day. It was a rush of emotion. I cried when I read it in the paper. Not for baseball, but because you never know how much you love some things, or some people, until they’re taken from you.

In April, I listened to the first pitch of the season on my father’s radio. And I stood for the national anthem, even though I was alone in an empty workshed.

I checked the newspaper box scores every morning. I watched games on television with parched peanuts.

My uncle took me to a few games in Atlanta. I hollered, laughed, screamed, leapt to my feet for good plays, and booed the opposition. He let me eat as many hotdogs as I wanted. And for nine innings, I was me.

In daily life, I was a kid who didn’t know where our lives were going, or whether my family would survive hard times. But during a ballgame, I was part of something bigger than myself. And when they won, they did it for me.

Sometimes I wish that I could talk to that little boy. He’s still out there somewhere in time and space, eating peanuts, worried about his own life.

I would tell him to look upward. Just over the treeline. There’s an orange light, stabbing through the limbs making the prettiest sunset you ever saw.

The sun only goes down for the night. Tomorrow morning, it will rise. Tears will evaporate. Winter will end. And boys will take the field again.

And you will know that nothing bad lasts forever. No way, no how.

And that is why I love baseball.

26 comments

  1. Kelly - February 21, 2019 10:27 am

    My Mom and I shared a passion for baseball. The Minnesota Twins has their spring training here in Orlando when I was growing up and we went to their games all the time. Even though the Twins weren’t necessarily our team, it was magical to go to those games every Spring. I miss her so much, especially this time of the year. I hold these memories very close indeed.

    Reply
  2. Edna B. - February 21, 2019 10:35 am

    We love baseball here in New England too. Our favorite team is the Red Sox of course. Win or lose, I love watching the game. And I love Springtime too. Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth Edens - February 21, 2019 11:17 am

    There is a magic about baseball. I feel like the majors have lost but it is alive and well all the way down to t-ball.

    Reply
  4. Gary - February 21, 2019 11:59 am

    My mom and dad would sit in their folding lawn chairs in the backyard during baseball season and listen to the Atlanta Braves. Then dad died. So did baseball. I haven’t listened to a game since 1998 .

    Reply
  5. Naomi - February 21, 2019 12:01 pm

    27 1/2 years ago, on October 26, my daughter got married during the last game of the World Series when the Atlanta Braves was playing. It was also opening day of hunting season and her new husband and all of his male relatives and friends were hunters. Although they all stayed for most of her reception, as the evening went on, I noticed that everyone started disappearing and I was left alone at the reception hall. I did listen to the last inning on the radio on my way home. By the way, we live in metro Atlanta.

    Reply
  6. Ronnie Burlison - February 21, 2019 12:03 pm

    I like the old baseball stadiums so much that I have a workshop with old wooden seats that I use to make ink pens with the barrel of the pen being the wood from the stadium seat. Sean, give me an address and I will send you a pen from the mid 60s Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. “Play ball.”

    Reply
    • JJ - March 28, 2019 7:05 pm

      Where can these be purchased?

      Reply
  7. Mary Burns - February 21, 2019 12:55 pm

    Our grandkids are practicing for the start of the season. Excitement is in the air. Ball season (baseball and softball) are exciting times in our family. We have 2 pitchers and 1 catcher. Poppa, the original baseball star in our family is right there with them. He loves it! Got new stadium seats for Christmas. The kids were as excited as we were with that! Poppa got a new t-shirt that is half baseball and half softball. Play ball!!!!!

    Reply
  8. Shelton A. - February 21, 2019 1:17 pm

    Great writing and a really good story (I love baseball, too).

    Reply
  9. Donna Gulliver - February 21, 2019 1:43 pm

    Sean, even tho we don’t follow baseball much. my husband and I are huge fans of the baseball movie “Field of Dreams”. We met and married in Iowa and still have family there. On one of our trips back to visit, we went to the site of “Field of Dreams” and the field has been preserved and the bleachers are still there. It was a cold, windy March day and as we sat on the bleachers, a van load of little leaguers pulled up and got out wearing their uniforms and running to the field to play ball. They were SOOO excited, my husband and I sat there and cried to see such joy on those little faces! I highly recommend you take a road trip there someday–it is worth the drive, especially for someone who loves baseball the way you do! My husband even bought the “Field of Dreams” T shirt and has worn it out, but won’t get rid of it! By the way, we have been married 59 years and have traveled to 49 of the to states together (all except Alaska) and visiting “Field of Dreams” is still one of our favorite memories.

    Reply
  10. Tom Rule - February 21, 2019 1:56 pm

    Great article. Excellent writing!
    I love baseball as well, beyond what most musician’s do, I suppose.
    I love that there really IS a possibility to come back from 8 runs down in the 8th – the Braves have done it several times over the years.
    I love the space in the game, where you have time to anticipate what’s coming up, where you won’t miss something if you bend down to get that peanut you dropped.
    I love ballpark hotdogs – sadly, I’m old enough now where they don’t love me.
    I love that on any given day you really DON’T know how the game will come out – because the last place team can STILL beat the first place team on a given day.

    I attended a game at Wrigley Field a few years ago – my only time to visit there. There were some twenty-somethings behind me, chatting about how baseball was the perfect game.

    It made me smile.

    Reply
    • Jill Wooldridge - March 22, 2019 2:50 pm

      Love this ♥️♥️♥️

      Reply
  11. Mary Sarge - February 21, 2019 2:16 pm

    Extra special column today Sean. Brings back many memories growing up and rooting for the Cincinnati Reds. Now I’m almost 80 and I’m adie
    hard Braves fan who can’t wait till opening day..

    Reply
  12. Ann - February 21, 2019 2:26 pm

    I think this calls for listening to John Fogerty’s song, “Centerfield.”

    Reply
  13. Clark - February 21, 2019 2:48 pm

    If only we could go back and talk to those little boys we once were.

    Reply
  14. Jack Darnell - February 21, 2019 3:07 pm

    I remember the Brooklyn Dodgers, and had no idea they were in the same town as the Yankees. I remember thinking I must be kin to Jackie Robinson since we had the same ‘girl’s’ first name. LOL
    Long time ago, you make me want to listen to a ball game. I haven’t did that since 1954-55!
    Good one Dude, and you are right it seems NOTHING lasts forever!

    Reply
  15. MermaidGrammy - February 21, 2019 3:18 pm

    There are so many little boys and girls just like you out there wishing they had something to look forward to. Your calling, – it’ll just get louder and louder before it stops altogether and you’ll miss your chance – is to be a daddy to those little children. It would be great if they read your column, but even more than words, they deserve actions. And your love

    Reply
  16. Mary Anne Tomlinson - February 21, 2019 3:26 pm

    Sean, thank you for such a great article today. Our family loves baseball. My husband played in high school. As an adult, he played men’s softball. Our daughter played softball as a little girl and later on the high school varsity team. We used to take her and a buddy to see the Braves play every summer. Now…our grands play baseball. Our grandson, “came into his own” last year as he’s getting lankier and stronger. This season should be outstanding for him as well. But the star is our granddaughter, Lucy. Lucy loves baseball. She’s the only girl on the team and has been since she was in T-ball. Talk about a tough little girl. The boys and the coaches love her and treat her no differently than any other player. We’ve overheard other parents talking about the dinner conversation at their house being about how Lucy got their son out during the last game. She can scoop up a line drive to second and fire it over to first base for a double play and never break a sweat. Her hero? Jackie Robinson. Her number? 42. She once wrote a book report in 4th grade about Jackie and in her words “I admire what Jackie Robinson did. He was brave. Someday, I want to “make it” so girls can play in MLB.” If anyone can “make it” happen, our Lucy can. As for this Nana and Pop Pop, we’ll show up at the ball park again this spring with our folding chairs lined up against the fence and cheer on the next generation of great baseball players. We’ll have a special gleam in our eye when our two special strawberry blondes come up to bat. Play Ball!

    Reply
  17. Budd Dunson - February 21, 2019 3:40 pm

    I grew up with a baseball glove attached to my hand. Then finally realized I was not and never would be an athlete.

    Reply
  18. Shaw - February 21, 2019 3:54 pm

    Great expressions of sentiment today, Sean! In particular I liked this part of your column: “I cried when I read it in the paper. Not for baseball, but because you never know how much you love some things, or some people, until they’re taken from you.”

    Wow… how true is that.

    As a baseball lover, and a lifelong fan who bleeds Dodger Blue, I am happy that spring training has come, and am hopeful we can finally win our first World Series since 1988. But the child in me remembers the cold early spring days of Little League practice, the sound of the wooden bat hitting the ball, all the baserunning drills, all the fun times…

    Thanks for the columns, I enjoy them daily. God bless you and Jamie.

    Reply
  19. Charles L. Scott II - February 22, 2019 2:56 am

    Good Day Sean, This was a marvelous pre-spring story, something to look forward to for all those who stilll care.
    Warm Regards
    Chuck Scott

    Reply
  20. jane buntthobson - February 22, 2019 3:58 am

    sean, how this brought back vivid memories for me also. i grew up with two older brothers who lived and breathed baseball. my love for the game will never pass. endless summer nights watching “ harry and bub play ball. As a little sister my dream was to be the first bat girl for my brothers major league team he said he was going to play for! he promised me he would make that happen i believed him. he died in a trajic car wreck. the love he gave me for the sport still lives on in me, something that cannot be taken away.he also left me a wonderful nephew named Bench whom he named after his idol johnny bench- for he was a catcher also…

    Reply
  21. Larry Popwell - February 22, 2019 4:59 am

    Play ball!

    Reply
  22. Donna - March 21, 2019 1:04 pm

    You just did talk to that little boy, sweet man. Aren’t you proud of the life he has made, and the live he has found? Your Dad is.

    Reply
  23. Sharon J - March 21, 2019 2:47 pm

    Those are wonderful memories about you, your dad and baseball. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Reply
  24. Dawn - March 22, 2019 4:29 am

    Oh, I remember those warm summer evenings at the ballpark watching my big brother play little league…candy, coke, hot dogs…bugs flying around the big lights! Kids playing behind & under the bleachers…good people enjoying comraderie & competition – For the love of the game, family, and God’s beautiful world!
    Thank you for reminding me of such great times!

    Reply

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