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A writer's ode to the sport he loves

Posted Friday, February 19, 2010, at 6:36 PM

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a baseball fan.

Without question it's the game I love most.

I certainly enjoy basketball and football, but if I had my choice I'd be sitting in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago with my wife at my side and the White Sox up by a big margin as Mark Buehrle pitches another perfect game.

You may ask why I'm bringing this up now, in the midst of the basketball chase for a state championship and with inches of snow left behind by the latest winter storm to cross our paths.

Well, it has more to do with one special event that happens each year at this same time. An event that brings four magic words to the lips of baseball fans everywhere -- pitchers and catchers report.

But there's more to it than just knowing that baseball will soon be on the map again. More indeed.

It also brings to mind warm weather, mild breezes and sunny, endless skies unfolded above us like a ribbon of pale blue and wedding gown white that is just beyond the reach of all true baseball fans.

It brings to mind the emerald green of a baseball diamond dotted with white pearls at all four corners and lined with misnamed stripes that represent the boundaries that we often seek in our lives.

Of the clay brown paths that encircle the infield and give a true definition of infield and outfield, of those who dare challenge the hot hit grounders and smashed line drives that can make or break the fate of not only the pitcher, the fielder in front of it or the batter who's mighty swing sent it on its way to it's destiny. But the heart of every fan who clings to the moment when he hears the crack of the bat.

When he has a hope, even if just for a fleeting second, that his team can break open a tight game and ultimately claim the victory.

Of the bittersweet smell of the grass that lies beneath the feet of those who would chase down the long and sometimes just out of reach, dots of cowhide and twine.

The cowhide and twine red and white dots that energize and lie at the center of the diamond and are the nucleus of all of things around it.

The dots that are curved, slid, knuckled spanked and blasted into the nights and days of the game.

But baseball is more than merely a game of the moment. No indeed my friends, its a game of hope within itself and beyond itself.

It's a game of faith, belief and deep down desire. A game of when all three are entangled together it can bring entire cities and towns to together as one body.

It's a belief in itself that you can succeed no matter how far you are behind or how far you are ahead that your goals are always within reach at that moment.

It's a deep down desire to be the best at your position, your skills and the best at evaluating the other team.

Beyond itself lies the game's inherent ability to spawn a belief that tomorrow will be better and the next day better still.

A belief that no matter what your fate at the very moment, it can be reversed in the next and the next and the next yet again.

Its a game that follows the times and intertwines itself with the present while remembering the past and looking forward to the future.

Whether that past be one of glory or agony, pride or passion. Or whether that future be one of uncertainty and doubt.

It's a game, that no matter how you view it or who you root for can both break your heart and enlighten your heart.

The greatest moments and the worst moments are held in high esteem by those who love it equally and with the same fervor.

Whether its the White Sox celebrating on the magical night in October of 2005 or the Red Sox looking stunned as Bill Buckner missed the ball down the line or Steve Bartman being escorted out of Wrigley Field following his ill-fated encounter with a foul ball, all are held equally in our collective hearts as baseball fans.

And with the exception of the saddest day of the year -- the season finale -- it draws perhaps the most positive statement ever made in sports "It's all right, we'll get them tomorrow."

Rick Curl is a sports writer with the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 20, or by e-mail at rcurl@gcdailyworld.com.

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Nice piece Mr Curl, I too get excited this time of the year, knowing that my favorite sport is emerging from a winter hibernation. It brings back some of the greatest memories I have of my youth. The smells of the ballpark still make me extremely nostalgic to this day.

Though I have yet to see my favorite team win a World Series, I agree with you Mr Curl, spring always makes me feel optimistic that this might be the year. Realistic or not, on opening day everyone has the exact same opportunity to win it all. Baseball seems to have so many examples that are metaphors for life in general, the parallels are uncanny. I have always felt Alexander Pope subconsciously had baseball on his mind when he quoted "..hope springs eternal." even though baseball had yet to be invented when he wrote this. Baseball is all about hope, and hope is something that seems to be in short supply in a lot of areas these days.

Play ball!

-- Posted by midnightrambler on Mon, Feb 22, 2010, at 2:30 PM

After I posted earlier I got to thinking about a few of my springtime rituals, things that I would be doing about now if I were only 30 or so years younger. One of my favorites involved getting my glove ready for the season, when the weather was like it has been around here recently, I had to find something indoors to give me my baseball fix. Every year I would dig out my glove from wherever I had haphazardly stashed it at the end of last summer. It was always kind of stiff and uncomfortable when you unearthed it, a few months of neglect in a dark closet not the best storage method for sure. As much respect as I always had for my glove, I certainly never treated it that way, it was absolutely abused throughout those many many seasons, and it certainly had the battle scars to show for them. But when I broke that crusty thing out each spring, I knew my dad had the exlixir to bring her back to life. I think it was called Neatsfoot Oil I could be off on that name but it was an old time leather treatment product that sat on the shelf in our basement never seemingly used but there every spring nonetheless. It was about a gallon container and for all I know it looked as if it were probably about the 3rd generation it had been in the family, an old tin container of some mysterious salve. I would drown that old dirty glove in that oil until it gleamed and was completely supple, the old girl had been revived, maybe not show worthy, but handsome no doubt. But I had one more part of the ritual, I would put a few baseballs in the palm and web of the glove, wrap it as tight as possible with cord, and stick it under my mattress for a few nights for some reason that is lost on me now. When you unleashed her from those cords the glove was absolutely perfect and ready for another beautiful season. I can still remember how that old Neatsfoot oil smelled. If I smelled it today it would certainly bring back alot of wonderful memories.

Go Giants!

-- Posted by midnightrambler on Mon, Feb 22, 2010, at 5:58 PM

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