I’ll admit it. I am a baseball geek. I have had a love affair with baseball since I can remember and for that reason I love spring. Spring is a great season. It’s the season of rebirth. Throughout nature Spring signals the awakening of youth. Whether it’s a sprouting blade of grass or crocus, the birth of a baby robin or the sound of a baseball hitting the oil soaked leather of a well aged baseball glove.
Heck I even love cutting the lawn for the first time in the Spring. Is there a better fragrance than the smell of fresh cut grass? I don’t think so.
Spring is about a new beginning. A new beginning for life and a new beginning for every baseball team. On opening day every team has the same record. It’s a wonderfully beautiful thing. Everyone is in first place!
It was May 22, 1966 that I saw my first professional baseball game. Better than that it was actually a double header – the New York Yankees vs the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees were in the throes of a downturn that would have them not getting back to the World Series until 11 years later.
I remember walking through the stands and the first sight was that huge outfield fence. It was a menacing black and shrouded a huge field that I believe measured about 457 feet to dead center field. Oh, yes, the monuments back then were in the field of play in dead center field. I could barely grasp the enormity of the field. It’s weird, as I sit here today and remember to that moment everything seems to be in black and white…..even the lush grass.
The Yankee team was comprised of aging stars and few future stars. There was Roy White, Bobby Richardson, Tom Tresh, the playboy Joe Pepitone, Roger Maris, Jake Gibbs, Mickey Mantle, Clete Boyer, Elston Howard, Horace Clarke just to name a few. I think the Yankees swept the doubleheader and thus my life long love of baseball and the Yankees began.
I am lucky. As a passionate baseball and Yankee fan I have been spoiled to be an active participant in the best rivalry in sports. I speak of the Red Sox – Yankee rivalry. Sorry folks, there is nothing better. I have had the pleasure of dancing on my neighbors front yard when Bucky “fucking” Dent hit the home run over the green monster on that late afternoon in 1978 and I’ve known the devasting feeling of watching the Red Sox come from 0-3 down to win the league championship series only to move on to their first world championship since 1918. Whether you like the Yankees or the Red Sox it doesn’t matter. What matters is the passion.
It’s funny, today alot of folks don’t really appreciate baseball. I often hear, “it’s to slow, it’s boring.” I almost find myself apologizing for being a baseball fan these days. I find the strategic intricacies of the game to be fascinating. If you know the game well you’d realize that on every pitch so many things can happen. Plus is there anything better than being in a ballpark (of any size) on a beautiful summer night with a bag of peanuts, hot dog, cold beer and program. The contrast of the green grass, clay base paths, white lines and bases all highlighted by the bright lights.
If you haven’t been in a while, you owe it to yourself to catch either a major league or minor league game this summer. Have some fun.
Part of my frustration is that I believe that MLB has failed to realize that their ability to sustain their business historically was driven by the millions of kids who played baseball in formal leagues. Whether it was Little League Baseball, Junior Major League Baseball, VFW, Legion or any of the other formal organized leagues. In my opinion MLB has done a good job of alienating these legions of fans. From limiting access to games on television either through restrictive contracting with broadcast partners or scheduling games to late at night. Additionally, I believe MLB can do more in urban areas to drive excitement and interest in baseball. Sponsorship of leagues, access and visibility of key stars all would do wonders to drive the young fan back to baseball. Young fans are what drive sustainability.
Spring, rebirth, youth, sustainability. God I love the Spring! Go Yankees!