“Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” ~Sharon Olds, This Sporting Life, 1987
It is good to have survived the last five months. The Mayans were wrong about the end of the world and despite the the best efforts of the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers, in spite of Sequestration, North Korean Nukes, Al Qaida terrorists and troubles brewing around the world and at home we finally made it to Opening Day.
Some for me baseball, maybe more than any other thing brings a sense of order to my universe. Some of my earliest memories involve baseball. I played in my back yard, in sandlots, parks and real baseball fields. I learned the game from my late father and when he was deployed to Vietnam my mom would come at watch my Little League games. Most of my broken bones have been the result of injuries sustained on the baseball or softball field, which make me look forward to my next assignment at the Joint Forces Staff College all the more since the faculty and students play ball almost all year round.
I have always loved the game and like Walt Whitman seemed to believe that there is something healing about it like no other game. Whitman said that baseball is “our game – the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”
I wonder sometimes if Whitman would think that perhaps the Dominicans and Japanese appreciate “our game” more than us? Considering how well they do in international competition and how many of “our” star players come from those countries and others he might have something to say about it. Perhaps that the game transcends America itself and allows Americans to appreciate men like Ichiro, Big Papi, Robinson Cano, Pablo “the Big Panda” Sandoval, Jose Reyes, Hideki Matsui and many more, 243 on Opening Day 2012 that were on Major League rosters, over 100 being Dominicans.
Now as for me I think that is a sign of the greatness of this game. It is a game that I think more than any transcends culture. To watch the enthusiasm of the players and fans of the non-US teams in the World Baseball Classic was a joyful experience for me. I don’t know maybe in our faced paced thrill a minute ADD inducing and violence addicted American culture we have forgotten the joy that this game can bring. Maybe we are too cynical and have even done damage to it with the Steroid and Performance Enhancing Drug use scandals.
I don’t know, I could be wrong but I do think that a trip or two to a ballpark every year would be a good thing for every American. In fact I don’t even think that it would need to be a big league ballpark because the joy and mystery of the game can be found anywhere there is a baseball field where boys of every age find a bit of magic in the crack of a bat, running out a grounder, stealing second base or striking out the side.
The great Jackie Robinson said something that I think is incredibly profound: “Baseball is a curious anomaly in American life. It seems to have been ingrained in people in their childhood…. Baseball is, after all, a boy’s game, and children are innocent of evil. So even adults who are prejudiced revert to their childhood when they encounter a baseball player and they react with the purity of little children.”
So to all of us who looked so forward to this day. Yes it is a day that comes every year, and for some people the season seems too long, the games too many and the pace, well not fast enough. But that being the case it is a human game, a game that I think allows has a spiritual sensitivity unfound anywhere else in sports. Yes it is a game, it too is a business and well for some people like me a religion.
This weekend I plan on getting to a game or two at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish in Norfolk Virginia. I won’t make the home opener, but I will get some of the Norfolk Tides opening home stand.
I hope to see you at the ball park this year. Trust me. It will do you good.