Baseball fans: what are some of your thoughts and feelings as the new season begins? Best memories? Ironies? Tragedies?
Tomorrow at 1:05 EST, the Cincinnati Reds will take the field against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida.
The long, dark winter of the soul will be over here in the Spencer household.
My life runs on three calendars. The first is the calendar of the ministry where I work, a school calendar full of breaks and beginnings, graduations and finals. I enjoy the academic calendar and the rhythm it provides for my life. If I had to give it up, I’d be sorry for all those lost opportunities to enjoy grace and sabbath.
The second calendar is the Christian year. If you read this site you know how I feel about that. My faith journey is formed around the time-keeping of the church’s way of marking time. No single thing has been more helpful to my own growth as a disciple and worship leader. I always know where I am with the people of God, and it’s always relevant, despite the fact that Baptists don’t understand it. (I’m kidding.)
The third calendar is the informal, but thoroughly religious and essential calendar of the baseball universe.
Baseball is not really as much a sport to me as it is an alternate universe where I am welcome to step out of whatever role I’m playing or responsibilities I have and discover something deep, true and innocent. Oh I know. That’s ridiculous, especially with Roger Clemens and whatever else is going on. Well, the amazing thing is that no matter how the individuals on or off the field wound it, somewhere – somewhere- it springs up again, fresh, new and reborn.
And I am reborn along with it. The game of boys and men, that allows us all to change places. The game of symmetry and predictability. The game that prefers to be called a “pass time.”
It begins in February and it stays with me until October. The four months of the “off season” are quite difficult for me. My wife is always glad when baseball returns as she gets a saner, happier, more grounded person to live with.
I’ll end most everyday with the 9th inning of a game, and I’ll start most every weekday with some baseball talk with my friend Joe, a Mets fan stuck far from Shea and even farther from cable. I at least have my team on Fox Sports Net.
Baseball is my “other place.” My happy, safe, sane place. Baseball is like a colony of heaven for me, where for the price of a ticket, I can put my toes in the river of eternal pleasures and forget about all the things I have to do tomorrow and the rest of my life.
My love for baseball isn’t because of being a fan of a team. I follow the Reds until it gets impossible, then usually cheer for the Red Sox until the playoffs, where I have to work out my loyalties by a complex and secret formula.
No, I love the game. It’s history. It’s quirks. The ballparks. The local ball diamonds. High school teams. Minor league ball. Ball park food. Baseball talk on the radio. Marty and Joe (God rest his soul) on the radio. Game Day Audio is the greatest invention since Bourbon Balls.
I love the idea of a night game on a perfect spring evening, good seats high above first base in a classic park, a velvet sunset over some river painting a lazy, magical scene to keep for year to come. I love the memories of games when I was a kid, games with my dad, games with my kids. I love the anticipation of games to come.
I love the caps. And the names. I love the personalities, the cliche’s and the humor. I love great baseball writing and any baseball movie. Almost.
I love seeing dads with their young children at the park. I love the weird characters that inhabit ballparks. I love the loyalty to cursed teams and the philosophical attitudes that allow us all to watch a team in August, 25 games out and we still love what’s happening on the field.
It’s the background universe of my world, and it welcomes me again, starting tomorrow. The long dark night is over, and even though UK played in the snow today (and won), spring is here until October.