Talking about loving baseball with someone who doesn’t is like telling a Victoria’s Secret model you love her — both will look at you as if you’re an idiot, and you’ll probably be slapped by at least one.
But my inability to present the idea properly doesn’t change the sentiment: There’s just something about baseball that gets to me, particularly these days when Spring Training is underway.
Maybe you know that before ballplayers start their major league season in April, they spend 45 days in Florida or Arizona working to get in shape. But if you’ve ever been to Spring Training, you know the truth: It’s a distant cousin to the “work” most of us do every day, since the real beauty of baseball is that it unfolds slowly and on no particular timetable.
If the weather cooperates, the Spring Training sun is bright and the grass is green at the multitude of ballparks dotting the metropolitan area. It’s a rare spring day you can’t catch a couple of games, and on a good day you can probably watch three, starting around lunch, winding through the afternoon and ending up after dinner.
For a business in which everyone is rich (even the least of the bunch commands about a million dollars annually, while the best earns more than $20 million a year), they’re all accessible in Spring Training — the high-dollar guys and the youngsters just starting out — an arm’s length or two away, squinting into the sun while, generally good-naturedly, signing the bats and caps and programs thrust their way.
They’re just kids, most of them, and some look downright goofy up close, with the “Dutch Oven” (aka Texas Ranger Derek Holland) leading the laugh train with his unruly hair and dopey mustache. He could be me, way back when, sans the baseball talent and bank account, of course.
In the spring, the possibilities for the upcoming season seem so bright, much as they were so many years ago for all of us. Anything can happen during a baseball season, and even though baseball mirrors life in that the thoroughbreds generally wind up crossing the finish line first, from time to time a longshot unexpectedly makes a run for it and surprises even the most seasoned observers.
As my wife is loathe to admit, I’d watch a baseball game every day if I could. To her credit, she gamely tried to catch “the fever” over the years, but it hasn’t worked out. She sees it as a kind of sickness, I think, although she doesn’t describe it as such to others; after all, she has her own image to protect, too.
Someday, maybe I’ll find a job that pays most of the bills and lets me daily sit in the stands or, in my dreams, on the field or in the dugout or in the bullpen.
I know that probably won’t happen. But I can’t help thinking about it every spring before the season starts and before the games begin and before reality regains the upper hand, pulling me back home from Spring Training and making me hope for another go-round next year.