Every Spring is a new beginning, a new hope, a new chance to win the pennant.
When the baseball season starts fresh each year, it renews me, makes feel like I have another chance to make things happen and conquer the world again. It makes me feel alive again… even now when I am old and retired and in constant pain.
People say to me, “Baseball is boring and slow and not as great a game as…” and then they try to tell me stuff about football and soccer and NBA basketball. I’m not buying it, even when it is my eldest son selling it.
Baseball became my sport when I was a child in the 1960’s. Great Grandpa Raymond was a frail and ancient man then, too elderly to share much of anything with me as I was young and full of energy. But on Sunday afternoons in Spring and Summer, we listened to the Minnesota Twins play baseball on the radio. I heard Harmon Killebrew hit homers and Tony Oliva make game-winning hits. I learned that the game was about numbers and strategy… a team game, yet filled with moments of man versus man, star of one team facing off against the star of another, skill versus skill, willpower versus willpower. I learned that baseball was a fundamental metaphor for how we live our lives.
I remember when Bob Gibson was the greatest pitcher in baseball, and he played an entire career with my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. I remember Lou Brock setting the record for stealing bases in a single season, a monumental accomplishment. I actually saw Lou Brock steal a base in a game against the Houston Astros, though not in the record-setting year. I was there in person. I listened to Bob Gibson’s no hitter of the Pittsburgh Pirates on the radio, listening in a campground in St. Louis while the Cardinals actually played in Pittsburgh. I didn’t get to see Stan Musial play ball. He retired before I first became aware of the game. But he was on TV quite a lot on game day, and I hung on every word.
Baseball has gotten me through some very rough times in my life. I used to play ball, baseball and softball. I was a center fielder for our 4-H team and made some game-saving catches in the field, hit a home run once, and once saved a game for our side when I threw out a runner at home plate from center field. And I have religiously followed the Cardinals year after year. In 2011, when health problems and family problems and depression threatened to destroy me… the Cardinals won the World Series in seven hard-fought games. When you reach a moment of crisis, with the game on the line, you can reach deep inside for that old baseball player magic… tell yourself, “I will not lose this day!” and find the power within you to make that throw, get that hit, catch that long fly ball…
Baseball is a connection to family and friends… teammates… everyone who has ever shared the love of the game. If you don’t win it all this time… there’s always next Spring. God, I love baseball.