Monday, April 1, 2013

Play Ball!

The Phillies 2013 season begins tonight in Atlanta against the Braves, and there is something very special to me about the start of a baseball season. I love my Flyers, I enjoy watching the Eagles (although that organization certainly doesn't make it easy at times), but there is just something different about baseball. Football games have an intensity about them due to the limited number of games in a season, and there is a ferocious elegance to hockey, but baseball is just... baseball. And at the end of  opening day, every fan has the chance to have their team at 1-0, and tied for first place. Each season starts with the promise of what might be if everything breaks just right.

As hokey as the movie Field of Dreams was in many places (ok, most places), there was a lot of truth in James Earl Jones' monologue about the meaning of baseball. Baseball's opening day is Spring. Baseball is Summer. Baseball is something to have on in the background that you can half pay attention to, but keeps you company as you do something else. Baseball is second guessing the manager. About lineup choices, about pinch hitters, about bunting and hit and runs, about pitching changes. Baseball is "what if's" and "if only's". Baseball is the promise that finally, this could be the year...

As much as anything else for me though, baseball is remembering my father. The single most indelible image I have of Dad is him out in the yard on a hot summer day, on his hands and knees, working on the flower beds. Weeding. Meticulously raking out the beds. An old radio is propped on a folding chair so that Dad can listen to the Sunday afternoon ball game. Harry Kalas does the play by play and Ritchie "Whitey" Ashburn provides commentary.

As another opening day rolls around, I can't help but to think of Dad, getting this year's tomato seeds going and waiting for Mike Schmidt to strike out with the bases loaded and the game on the line. But time marches on and things change. I believe that somewhere out there Dad is getting the tomato seeds going. And waiting for Ryan Howard to strike out with the bases loaded and the game on the line...

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