Op-ed in The Philadelphia Daily News - March 11, 2008
While most college students are packing swimsuits and Advil for
weeklong inebriation vacations, I'm filling the car with gas for a road
trip from Philadelphia to Florida.
Another season of baseball has dawned, and that means spring training.
From the Nationals' preseason facilities on the Atlantic Coast to the
Phillies' home in Clearwater, Fla., on the Gulf - four friends, four
days, six games. That should get us back in shape in time for opening
Every night of every baseball season, I watch the small MLB.TV screen
that will not enlarge on my Apple laptop. I watch the games in bed, on
the couch, in wireless coffee shops and bars. I stay awake long past my
friends to see the Arizona score go final. As a geographically
displaced fan for more than 11 seasons, I'm used to rooting by myself -
shouting exclamations no one else hears after victories, shaking my
head to myself after defeats.
Growing up south of the New York-Boston border cutting through
Connecticut, I found myself surrounded by Yankee fans. But there was no
way I could embrace the Bronx Bombers. What fun is it expecting to win
every season, accepting nothing less than a championship pennant?
I found my escape in expansion teams. I live for the underdog, maybe
rooted in my love of writing, the desire to find the unlikely feat that
becomes story and legend. Before they even drafted a player, I picked
the Diamondbacks as my team, and I've loved them ever since.
And I don't love just the Diamondbacks. I love baseball - more than any
other sport. There's nothing like going to the ballpark on a cool
spring evening or a sweltering summer afternoon. Nothing like kicking
your feet up with a foot-long hot dog and soda and watching the game in
person. I take advantage of living a 20-minute subway ride from the
stadium. I go to as many games as I can, and I don't care who the
Phillies are playing - watching a game at Citizens Bank Park is
special. Philadelphians are the most avid sports fans I've ever
encountered. It's so easy to get caught up in their world - and so much
People ask why I'm so in love with baseball. My fascination was an
integral part of me by the time I was 8. I could name all 160
minor-league teams and identify their parent clubs. I couldn't
articulate my passion then, but I'll try now...
Baseball stands on a unique pedestal - other sports are mere trends.
Highlight clips of Lake Placid and Air Jordan induce chills, but those
sports can barely survive without a patriotic miracle or superstar.
Cities unite on autumn Sundays, towns live for Friday night lights. But
only baseball captures the hearts of every American generation across
Baseball is more than just a game of inches and statistics. Baseball is
history, each season an epic tale. From April to October, history is
made each night, on each pitch. Every time the pitcher releases the
ball could be the start of something monumental.
Baseball is our past, a staple in our ever-changing culture. Over 150
years, America has experienced economic depressions, foreign wars and
an endless list of fads. Baseball has been there throughout most of it,
an escape that's been one of the rare constants in our society.
Baseball is timeless. There is no clock. No running out the last
seconds, no intentional fouling in the last two minutes. There is
always a chance to come back - even if you're down with two outs in the
bottom of the ninth.
And then, when I offer an answer like that, I feel silly. The emotions really run too deep for words. I just love baseball.
Here are what the readers have to say...
I'm sharing the essay with you because I loved the piece. It speaks to why baseball is the special sport it is to Americans, and why so many people, including me, think baseball is absolutely the best sport of all and a wonderful way to waste a summer day.
I would have gladly put my name of his essay and have been proud to have done so. But it's not my work. It's the work of a writer who's young, gifted and baseball crazy in the best sense of craziness.
- Justice B.
WOW WOW WOW. I'll be 76 next month and share your passion for baseball. I guess I've seen, in person, on TV, or listened to approximately 10,000 Phillies games from the time I was 8 yrs old.
- Phil M.
Never have enjoyed a column as much as I did yours!!
I am 68 years old and, as you, was hooked on the game at 8 years old, having been taken to see the Cleveland Indians vs. the Philadelphia Athletics at Shibe Park(21st & Lehigh),have been hooked ever since and as of Christmas Day each year, start counting down the days until pitchers & catchers report.
Until 20002, I umpired baseball every year(31 Yrs.), professionally, calling college, high school, Legion, and semi-pro games. I do miss it, if only for the opportunity to be on the field.
This year, for the first time in many years, I won't be going to spring training, but will go to Sarasota around April 7th or 8th. No Major Leaguers, but the Sarasota Reds, and Fort Myers Miracle play a pretty decent brand of ball.
Again, thank you for the column!!
- Gerry R.
Great job today in the People Paper. I felt the same way when I was a freshman at Temple in 1960. Your love of the game will never change. It hasnít changed for me!