Crack of the Bat
The cloudless blue sky and the warm spring sun feel good today. But it is April and I know I can’t yet put away my winter coat. Spring always takes me for a wild seesaw ride. At one moment, I am frantically looking for my warm weather clothes; the next, I am pulling my wool knit hat back on my head. And I feel it inside of me also. I am not quite yet ready to commit to my next project and leave my winter ones behind. My knitting bag still sits beside my chair and my house plants look a little droopy, waiting for their turn outside.
But there is a constant, no matter what the daily weather brings. April is the start of baseball season. With it comes the same newness and hope as spring. The teams unveil their new configurations, we fans hope for the best. Over the next six months, we will watch and follow the ups and downs of our team. This year, games have already been played in snow, rain and sun.
Though I did not grow up with baseball, my family did have a bat, some gloves and a softball. Our church youth group would sometimes gather in the church’s backyard and we would play our made up version of the game. Some of us used bare hands to catch balls and only our feet marked the base path through the wild growing grass. Sometimes, in the summers when we visited my grandparents in Ohio, we would watch the Cleveland Indians on TV. I remember the pristine field laid out and ready for play, the players in their white uniforms, casually chewing gum, and listening to a low key play by play. In my mind, I thought that this represented the United States, a culture I was somewhat removed from.
The now-deceased comedian, George Carlin, used to do a routine about baseball as opposed to football, and highlighted the names of plays in baseball. “You go home. You are safe. You have a seventh inning stretch.” That’s how it all appeared to me as a youngster: a polite slow-moving game, where the observer relaxed while watching, the sign of an elevated society… I know better now.
Later, I married into a Pittsburgh Pirates rooting family. I had my first stadium experience. I learned the ins and outs of the game and the intricacies of play. I ate stadium food and cheered when I saw my first soaring home run.
There is something every spring about that first crack of wood against the ball, the thwack of the ball against the leather, the strident call of the umpire, the athleticism of the players that inspires a belief in a long term hope that maybe by the time September rolls around my team might be ahead. And these days, I’ve accepted it as a good harbinger of spring. Go, Pirates!