“Pitchers and Catchers report!” It’s as sure a sign of the coming spring as erupting dandelions and fledgling fruit blooms. And as inhumane as this winter has been – as brutal as it remains in many locales – spring could not get here quickly enough, groundhog shadows and eminent March snowstorms be damned.
Yes, the return of baseball is a bellwether of warmer days, even if baseball itself should expect a somewhat chilly reception these days. Critics say the games are too long and frankly, painfully tedious. Smart, run-scoring strategy has been replaced by brutish free-swinging for the cheap seats, say baseball’s purists. And don’t even get tongues wagging about a certain Yankee third baseman.
For my own part, I’ve had a suspicion about the game for some time now. After the baseball players strike of the mid 1990s I fell off the wagon. The more recent scandals involving performance enhancing drugs and the obscene amounts of money paid to mere mortals for throwing and striking a rawhide ball have done nothing to reclaim my confidence.
And have you taken your kids to a game lately? To park, $30. For tickets, $75, $60 for sodas and snacks. And forget the souvenirs. I can’t swing that kind of cash. What makes all of this so difficult to take is the fact that some of my fondest memories center on professional baseball.
I’m not old, but old enough to remember sitting in the now demolished Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium trying to snag foul balls off the bats of Brett Butler, Dale Murphy and Bob Horner – all for a few turnstile dollars. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been back to a stadium since.
Some of my fondest memories were also made at church; in the little “church in the wildwood” of my formative years. The pew bottoms were made of old wooden slats that creaked and groaned during the service, pinching this little boy’s behind and picking holes in my mother’s pantyhose.