Thursday, July 05, 2007

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

Most of my life, I haven't been much of a baseball fan. Oh, I would watch the playoffs and the World Series. I grew up at a time when all the World Series games were played during the day and teachers would let us listen to the games in school. After school we would all gather around someone's transistor radio to hear the play by play. I vividly remember the great Maris/Mantle home run chase. I became a fan of the Amaz'n Mets early in their history because I'm a sucker for the underdog. Three years ago I began watching Mets' games on the TV in the back porch. I liked hearing the peepers through the screen windows as the game flickered on the screen.

When they start the game, they don't yell, "Work ball." They say, "Play ball." ~Willie Stargell, 1981

This summer I discovered the Saratoga Phillies and the New York Collegiate Baseball League and my appreciation for the game has increased tenfold. The NYCBL draws talent from some of the major colleges in the country. The Phillies are the defending league champions in only their fourth year of play. Their home games are played at East Side Rec in Saratoga, a ballpark in the middle of a city park. All the games are free and it is a wonderful way to spend a summer evening. These young players are excited to have the opportunity to play and their enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Spectators can sit in the covered bleachers behind home plate or in a lawn chair along the baselines. Scores of children patrol the park, gloves in hand, pursuing the elusive foul ball that is hit out of the park. All games begin at 7pm and my favorite part of the evening is when the sun disappears over the horizon. The sky turns pink, the air cools, and the sound of the collision between ball and bat becomes sharper.

That's baseball, and it's my game. Y' know, you take your worries to the game, and you leave 'em there. You yell like crazy for your guys. It's good for your lungs, gives you a lift, and nobody calls the cops.
Pretty girls, lots of 'em. ~Humphrey Bogart

I feel like I am maturing into a true baseball fan. Tonight I even went to the game alone and as I sat in my chair there was a moment when a foul ball headed my way, people began to shout and point, children ran towards me with their gloved hands stretched skyward, and magic happened. The first baseman leaped into the air, stretched his arm over the 8 foot high chain link fence and caught the ball. A cheer erupted from fans of both teams not only for the spectacular play but as a hymn of praise for summer and baseball.

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. ~A. Bartlett Giamatti, "The Green Fields of the Mind," Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977

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