Here’s something I never thought I would say: I’m starting to miss large gatherings of strangers.
I miss movie theaters, crowded restaurants, and busy swimming pools. I miss being able to choose which direction I go down a grocery store aisle. I miss seeing the Wawa cashier's patient smile – or grimace – when I insert my credit card upside down.
And, maybe, more than anything, I miss baseball.
I miss baseball because, for six months each year, it takes my mind off stuff that I probably have no business thinking about. Like politics. Without baseball I find myself spending more time watching or reading about politics. One news channel blames all our problems on Republicans, another blames them on Democrats. I'm hearing that protesters are heroes... or criminals. I’ve had to consider whether a machine-gun-toting lawyer was right to defend his mansion, or if the seemingly peaceful people passing by his front yard posed a threat. I’ve watched statues get knocked down and businesses get burnt up. I’ve followed the daily COVID statistics and prayed for those who are sick or have lost loved ones. I’ve also prayed for better days ahead, and that everybody be a little kinder to everybody else. I’ve prayed that politicians stop acting like children, and that children be able to get back to just being… children.
Maybe you have, too.
Many of our prayers haven’t yet been answered, but there is a glimmer of sunshine on the horizon. Baseball season starts this week.
Sure, it’s only sixty games, but it’s baseball. Real baseball. With real baseball players. Our local team, the Tampa Bay Rays, begins play against the Blue Jays from Toronto – or Pittsburgh – or Buffalo or Dunedin or Baltimore or wherever they wind up playing their home games. It doesn’t matter, because it’s baseball. Ji-Man Choi, my favorite Ray, will smile and do his little wiggle when he takes the field. Ji-Man understands that he’s making a lot of money to play a kids’ game. He goes out and has fun.
I"m going to have fun, too. Friday night I’ll be in my green recliner ready to watch Ji-Man and his colleagues from twenty-nine other cities take our minds off the stuff that has consumed so much of our time. For three hours I’ll root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win it’s… just fine, because there will be another game the next day. And the next day. And almost every day through September.
Maybe I’m shallow or maybe I’m just not very smart. Whichever it is, just give me baseball. Give me the optimism that comes at the beginning of every season, when each team is still in first place and each player is poised to have his best season ever. Who cares if the sounds of cheering crowds are being pumped in through stadium speakers, or if managers and umpires are arguing through masks? When the first pitch is thrown, baseball season is on.
Take me out to the ballgame… take me out to the crowd…
Your comments are welcome!