so i know i wrote about baseball at the beginning of the season (and maybe even once or twice since then), but we have just passed the halfway point of the season, and some random events in my life have converged around baseball, and so i just want to say again how much i love this sport.
a recent conversation in the comments section of one of my posts, the fact that i am reading a wonderful biography of roberto clemente, the sudden urge i had to go through my old boxes of baseball cards, and barry bonds' impending record-breaking homerun have all led me to this chair today to type these words: i love baseball. i simply love it.
when i was in maine, i was so happy to be disconnected from the world - from the news and the stock market and the weather report - all of it except baseball. i so wanted to find out what was happening in the big leagues. who was winning, who was losing, and how were they doing it? did anyone hit for the cycle? any no-hitters or perfect games? i couldn't stand missing any of it.
baseball is a long part of my story. i fell in love with it, as i've shared before, somewhere around the age of 8, and have a lover's relationship with it since. i think, if i'm being honest, baseball is a kind of mythology for me that i imaginatively and stubbornly hold onto, despite its reality. for me, at its most basic, it is a game. a game that people play. some of them are really good at it and so they give some of their lives to playing it almost every day and competing against each other and getting paid for it. is it full of selfishness and laziness and greed and envy and hate and fear and just basic human ugliness? of course (in that way i guess its alot like the Church). and i know it is full of those things. and yet, there is something so sacred about it the green of the grass and the dimensions of the diamond and the crack of the bat and the feel of the leather and the round whiteness of the ball and the playfulness of the movement and the flow of the game that i can't help but think its holy somehow. it is, for me, a kind of sanctuary. now, don't get me wrong, i don't worship baseball in this sanctuary, just as i don't worship architecture or liturgy or language when i worship in a church. instead, baseball (whether at the stadium, the little league field, or in front of my tv) is holy ground for me, sacred space where i lose myself in the wonder of play and movement and grace.
when i can't fall asleep at night, i imagine that i am shortstop for the new york yankees, and i am taking infield practice. guys are just hitting ground balls to me. i range far to my left and backhand the ball. then i catch a high pop. then i have to go deep in the hole to my right and then turn and make a strong through - all arm - to first base to just get the runner. i imagine this scenario for only a few moments and it puts me in such a peaceful place that i smoothly slide safely into sleep for the night. this is an almost nightly ritual.
so we are halfway through yet another 162-game season of baseball. the yankees are under .500, 10 games or so behind the red sox in the american league east. the pirates are even worse. neither of my favorite teams are looking competitive for the playoffs, and so you would think i would lose interest. but i haven't. the sport just draws me. when i flip through the channels i may come across wgn and a cubs game, or tbs and a braves game. in this area i get all the yankees games and all the mets games, and several phillies games, not to mention whatever espn is showing. and even if it happens to be the phillies against the marlins or something, i will find myself lingering on that channel, 'just for one at-bat,' to see what happens. often is twenty minutes later and i am still watching the game.
and then there is this thing with bonds. yes, he is about to hit 756 as everyone is calling it. i really want to thank pete sherry, who comments regularly here on these pages, for the discussion we've been having in the comments section of my "first monday in july" post. i've been harboring some ill-will for barry bonds, and pete helped me come to terms with that and realize the ridiculousness of it. barry will break the record and the world will notice and some will applaud him and others will call him a cheater and curse him. many others won't care. as for me, i have come to realize that i will enjoy it. its baseball, after all. and no matter how broken it is, no matter how fraught with frailty it is, it is sacred space for me. space to sit and stare, to imagine a kingdom where a game is just a game, where we play together and stand and sing and stretch together, have a beer together, and then drift off into sleep.
next february, during the second or third week, i will be longing for baseball - desperate for it. and so now, while it is here, i will enjoy it.
let's play ball!