At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I'm sharing my inaugural message to the parents of the little league team I'm helping to coach. I'm sure they think I'm crazy, but above all else I thought this community would appreciate it:
Okay everyone, take one deep breath and settle in. It’s time.
It’s time for Baseball. The National Pastime is upon us. It’s a good thing too, because Apple Pie and Chevrolet are pretty tired from carrying the load since last year. But for now, the triumvirate is restored, at least through summer. Recently, I know there has been some “discussion” in the media that Baseball has been passed over in the fabric of this great Nation by other athletic endeavors. There is no truth to this. Baseball is as essential to this Nation right now as it ever was in the past. It is ubiquitous. I don’t want to hear about TV ratings, advertising dollars or opinion polls. Let me put it this way, if a Thing is actually “super”, you wouldn’t have to label it so in some Orwellian attempt to influence the masses. It would be “super” all on its own. No, Baseball doesn’t need the “Super” World Series. That would be redundant. The World Series stands alone. Baseball stands alone.
And the days of Baseball are upon us. As a boy growing up in Detroit I remember those days. The patient wait for the seasons to change, the snow to melt, and the bright sun to replace the wintery mix of gray and cold. And then, it happens. Spring is in the air. The seemingly never-ending chronic wait for the bone-chilling weather to dissipate was replaced by the even more frustrating daily wait for my father to come home so we could grab the glove and bat and head to the backyard. Every day was a race against sunlight. How many “ghost men” would end up running through third on the way to home? How many times would I have to climb the fence in order to retrieve a backyard home run after I barreled up a pitch and sent it over? Rest assured that climb was always a reward, never a chore. Yes, I remember those days. Days were spent in the backyard with the wiffle ball. Nights were spent watching Sweet Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell work the pivot to perfection. Those days were good days and through this Great Game my father and I became best friends. Was it because of Baseball? Who can say, really, but I do know that it was better because of Baseball. But then, everything that’s ever been anything is better with Baseball.
When I was 5 or so my father dug up some pretty robust rose bushes in the backyard and moved them to the front yard. As you can imagine, when my mother noticed the new arrangement she was none too happy and demanded to know why the prized roses were so callously uprooted from their fertile home. My father politely responded, “Because they were in the way of third base.” To my mother’s credit, this was accepted as a perfectly reasonable explanation. God bless the Mommas who not only love their little ones, but Baseball too.
I say all that to deliver a standard, but appropriate cliché: when you’re out of it, you don’t realize how much you miss it. And then you have kids and you’re back in it and a tidal wave of things return and you realize the imprint of Baseball was stamped on your soul. The swings. The catches. And the hits. And the mitts. And the bats. And the dirt. And the grass. And the chalk. And those cheese oyster crackers that only seem to be available at the snack bar at the ballfield. And the heat, Oh my goodness the heat! And the fungo. And the pine tar. And the fence. And Home Plate. And the teammates. And MOST OF ALL the teammates.
You see, all we men ever want in life is a cool car, an arms-length-away box of decent booze, a Velvet Elvis on the wall, and Baseball. That’s it. That’s the list. Ladies, if you allow us these simple life transgressions we will stick to your side like that Labrador-mix mutt puppy you saved from the pound. I promise.
And now we have the opportunity, or better put, the responsibility, to teach our boys what makes Baseball the National Pastime. Why it matters. Why, after years go by, you miss it. Really, all we want is for them to run on the field and say,
“Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play, today
Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play today,
look at me, I can be, centerfield.”
Hope Springs Eternal and here’s to a great season!