It’s not about winning. It is about childhood, and hope, and joy of expectation. It is waking up to a beautiful day before the dew burnt away and getting your ball and mitt and calling out your friends, and if there weren’t enough of them, to play derivative games like fast pitching, or running bases, or bounce or fly, or 500, or peggy-move up, or even, as my dad taught me, baseball with a jackknife in a clearing on the prairie, or if it rained, show each other our baseball cards, and maybe trade them. It is about one stry stries, or odds and evens, or flipping a coin, or rock paper scissors, or catching the tossed bat nearest the end, placing fingers next to fingers, and trying to kick the bat away from the last kid holding onto the thin knuckle of the bat to see who got to pick sides first. It is even about just playing catch, or rolling the ball back and forth with a squealing little toddler.
It has nothing to do with drunks, or car commercials, or overpriced tickets or sports bars or hip neighborhoods, or uniforms or authentic gear. It has to do with transcendent moments of perfection, when somehow the most difficult feat in all of athletics, to hit a ball squarely within a fraction of a second of decision, happens just when we want it to happen the most, and the ball goes just where we want it to go. Each component of the game — running, throwing, fielding, batting, coaching, umpiring, even groundskeeping — has its own beyond. Any group of children with a bat and a ball and some gloves can do it, any time the weather and conditions permit, as long as bullies aren’t there to steal your stuff, or someone doesn’t demand to see a permit.
This game, when played right, and yes, with respect, is open to be shared by any who work to skill up for it, and who are willing to learn from those wise in it. This game, and what it meant, is a wonderful memory, like my father’s spooky knuckleball. As the man said, it’s only about what happens between the two white lines, nothing else. Once the game starts, you stay to the end, unless Mom or Dad calls you home.
For thousands of hours of my life, I have played and anticipated and practiced this most difficult game, and tried to teach it to my kids and to other kids. I have permanent injuries because of it. Although I treasure the memories of friendship it brought, I have let it go, and probably will never spend more than two minutes watching it played professionally again, because the game is no longer innocent and free enough for children, and because my own time is running out, and other, better purposes demand my attention each moment.
But I celebrate your joy! Come a future spring, I may again stand in the cold air and watch the young play their hearts out in a neighborhood park as the bat stings their hands with every swat. I know the feeling.
© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.