Another major league baseball season soon will be upon us as the players knock off winter’s rust in spring training. For those of us who follow the game, it’s time to be eternal adolescents once again.
Fan this time of year have an irrepressible, a fabulous-season-is-possible gleam in their eyes. There is nothing like baseball season, especially in the spring.
The promise of our favorite teams and players blooms in conjunction with our gardens.
Teams plant seeds every spring … some sprout gloriously and some sprout ignominiously.
Baseball in the spring mirrors a spectacular sunrise. Shafts of the early sun slant through and cast shadows of gold. Every team on Opening Day radiates like polished marble.
As the season wears on and the air becomes thick and hot like tar percolating under an unforgiving sun, some teams crack like ruined leather on an old glove and some teams make all our jaw muscles lose their grip in awe.
Granted, the annual return of baseball startles cynics who had the game dead and buried years ago. To paraphrase that old pitcher of prose himself, Mark Twain, reports of baseball’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
The cynics say the game is too slow, too boring, too long and has lost the kids who can’t stay up to watch the beyond prime time playoff and World Series telecasts.
Nevertheless, baseball survives. It is eternal in its charm. The baseball season settles over its followers like a shroud, somehow shielding us from the torments of the real world.
Of course, football replaced baseball long ago as the national pastime. But major league baseball is the local pastime. Many MLB teams rank high in the prime-time telecast ratings in their home markets, on both broadcast and cable.
When the hometown team is winning, the local TV ratings sprout as if sprinkled with Miracle-Gro.
The beginning of the baseball season is a natural time to reflect on the singular mystique of the game.
Baseball retains a hallowed place in our culture that other sports, even football, can’t match.
Baseball was a recreation activity borne of a mostly vanished agrarian civilization in which leisure was valued and not tethered to the constraints of a clock. People enjoyed the break of a lengthy baseball game in a hard lifetime.
Baseball retains its simple charm even though the game at the major league level is saturated with analytics implemented by Ivy League geniuses with widgets and sprockets and calculators coming out of their ears.
Baseball fans can find shelter by immersing themselves in infinite piles of statistical minutiae that give meaning to life for fantasy league disciples.
On the field, there remains an easy, liquid flow to the game. It’s comfortable choreography spans generations.
A pitcher throwing heat still is a spectacle awesome to behold. Ditto watching a hitter facing all that velocity, passing through a real furnace that shapes and hardens him.
And what could be more majestic than watching a slugger with a violent but graceful swing launch a cloud scraper?
Baseball doesn’t offer a kaleidoscope of whirring, blurring, constant action. But a sense of magic permeates the game. Players largely buy into the magic, being notoriously superstitious.
Some players think it’s bad luck to step on the foul line; hitters believe that individual bats only have so many hits in them; no one talks to a pitcher if he is in the midst of pitching a no-hitter; underwear is deemed lucky by hitters and worn until worn out during a hot streak; and if a hitting streak starts with fried chicken for dinner, it’s fried chicken thereafter until the streak is snapped.
With a captivating legacy and lore cascading through the decades, baseball resonates with souls with the simple sorcerer’s command of Play Ball!