Saturday, February 18, 2006

Spring is Here

Baseball fans judge the change in seasons differently from other people. Though the calendar says February, we know actually that summer is starting. This week baseball fans heard four words that make their hearts soar: Pitchers and catchers report. We still have to wait until the beginning of April for the games to count, though this year we have the World Baseball Classic to keep us occupied, but for those fans that have been waiting for this season since last October no time of year is sweeter.

February is the time when every fan, from Kansas City to Tampa Bay, can dream that their team will hoist the World Series trophy on a magical October night. February is the time when every fan can dream that they will witness history on a cool summer evening in cities from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York. Will they see a no-hitter? Will they see a walk off homerun? Will they witness one of the all time greats break one of the unbreakable records?

Baseball’s allure is multi-faceted. Nowhere else can someone fail seven out of 10 times and be considered a great success. If someone is ever again able to be successful four out of 10 times, he will go down as one of the greatest of all time. Most sports are constantly looking for ways to increase their scoring, and while the homerun is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, many fans believe there is nothing more beautiful than a 1-0 pitcher’s duel or a beautifully turned 6-4-3 rally killing double play.

Baseball’s history is interwoven with that of America. Everyone knows the legend of Babe Ruth and the trade that cursed a team for 86 years. We have all seen footage of Lou Gehrig pronouncing himself the luckiest man in the world.

We know the story of Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter to ever play. We know that he may be considered even better if he had not served his country in time of war, not once but twice.

We know the story of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and the chase for 61 and we know the story of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and the chase for 62.

We know the story of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series and Bobby Thompson’s shot heard round the world.

We know the story of Cal Ripken breaking the unbreakable record and saving baseball in one fell swoop.

We know the story of Hank Aaron and the pressure he faced not only on the field, but from the country.

We know all of these things because baseball reflects America. Never was this more true then with the story of Jackie Robinson and what he meant not only to baseball, but to the country. Jackie Robinson changed the landscape of race in America by playing hard and not allowing the hatred and racism to affect him publicly. Americans saw him act with grace and dignity and understood that he was just a man trying to play baseball. Many say that the Civil Rights movement began not with Rosa Parks, but with Jackie Robinson.

Rejoice baseball fans! The boys of summer are back and are gearing up for yet another magical season where hearts will be sent a flutter and fans will be brought to their feet by men who make the extraordinary seem routine. Fathers and sons will sit among the thousands sharing sodas and scorecards talking about the past and anticipating the future. Baseball is back, what history will be written this year?


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