Thursday, March 28

The Really Big Boys of Summer

I love baseball. I'll admit that I didn't follow my home town boys, the Kansas City Royals much last year, but I have a job and I had neither spare time nor money. Not a good excuse, to be sure. Things will be different this year, or not.

I love baseball, though I never really achieved full mediocrity at the game. I was a shitty catcher, prone to blocking with my testicles the inevitable errant pitches that Little League pitchers throw. The ones that got by sandwiched my fingers between ball and mitt, curving them in various directions at once. It makes you tough, believe me. My ability to fire a perfect strike to second base was rivaled only by my continued optimism that the ball might actually get over the pitcher's head. It rarely did. On the days when I got rotated into the outfield, my family's strict religious background came into play. All I could do was pray to Jesus that the ball would somehow drop into the infield where I wouldn't have any reason to try and catch the damn thing. My fly-ball percentage hovered somewhere around fifty percent.

This is the beauty of baseball. In a world where we pat our kids on the back and tell them , "Good job!" just for getting out of bed, baseball is a game of reality. You can stand there, stare down the pitcher, wait for the right pitch and with a swing born of honed reflexes and years of practice, whack the horsehide right past his ear and into center field for a base hit. Then, while your herohood is fresh and the adulation of the masses is still ringing in your ears, you take the field and somehow manage to not only lose a pop fly in the sun, but after you drop it, you boot it into center field, where, as you chase the loose ball, you collide with the center-fielder, knocking him colder than Wrigley Field on opening day, and watch, helplessly, as the ball is covered by your teammate's lifeless body. Sorry, Gary. Congratulations, ex-hero, like Charlie Brown, you've achieved instant goathood.

Funny thing is - as mortified as you might be at the time, by the time you get the mud out of your spikes and take the long, quiet ride home with the part of the team that's still speaking to you, it really isn't all that bad. 

Did you understand that, America? Getting your 10 year-old pudgy punk ass clobbered in a baseball game isn't the end of the world. It's good training for your adult life, where absolutely no one, and I mean no one, will ever bother to congratulate you for a good game, especially if you beat them at theirs in the process. Being the goat doesn't kill anyone (until you're a major-league goat - that's different.)

I've been spiked, bloodied, had broken bones, bruised jewels and a shattered ego, but baseball taught me humility. When I had all but forgotten humility, parenthood brought it back into sharp, stinging focus. But I digress.

In about ten days, the once-heroic Kansas City Royals, who, under the stern tutelage of Whitey-The-Rat Herzog, once bitch-slapped the St. Louis Cardinals all the way back to the Mississippi River, will start their 2013 season at Kauffman Stadium. As of today, they are undefeated* for the season. They will have 162 chances to play like warrior poets, to embrace their latent heroism, and just as many opportunities to look like blind and bumbling fuck-ups. Either way, that's my team.

I love baseball.

*The Chicago Cubs, however are already five games out.

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