Today might just be the best day of Spring. Sure, a mixture of snow and rain falls from the overcast sky and there isn’t a sign of relief in sight, but it’s opening day for Major League Baseball. I put on my rose (or in this instance, blue sky) colored glasses and let the sportscasters work their magic.
It’s hard to believe that there has been a lull on the diamond since the Red Sox won the World Series five months ago. Withdrawal has ended! The first pitches are being released all over the country and baseball is back; as are a plethora of baseball related movie quotes: “Wild Thing, you make my butt sting.” – Major League 2, “Are you crying? There’s no crying! There’s no crying in baseball!” – A League of Their Own, “Hey, it could happen.” – Angels in the Outfield. The only thing that beats a baseball related movie is baseball itself: the smell of ballpark franks, the sound of a 90 MPH fastball connecting with a wooden bat (WHACK!), and ice cream served in collectable souvenir hats. Not to mention throwback uniforms. Those are the best!
My love of baseball stems from the early days of the team formerly known as the Florida Marlins. I sat in Mrs. Bellinger’s fourth grade classroom the afternoon of opening day. We turned on the radio to listen to the start of the very first baseball game in South Florida, the Dodgers vs. the Marlins. One of my classmates even sprung out of school early to attend the game. By the time school finished and I was at my grandparents’ house for the afternoon, the game was still going on. I sat on their couch with my “Marlins rule, Dodgers drool” sign and prayed the Marlins would win. They did! I may not be able to remember the score but I remember that exact moment when baseball was burnt into my heart.
Over the years, I’ve learned bountiful information about the game from my dad. It’s like our Father-Daughter bonding time, whether we are at the ballpark or sitting at home watching a game. He’s taken me to countless games over the years. We’ve dealt with the various weather and climate changes that Florida has to offer. We’ve sat in nose bleed seats, next to the dug out, and everywhere in between. We’ve caught foul balls, met players, and attended Game Seven of the 1997 World Series. My knowledge has been tested with “here’s the scenario…what’s he going to do?” and “what’s the infield fly rule?” I’m pretty confident I know my baseball basics plus some and I sometimes spit out too much information when watching a game with someone other than my dad. I’ve been to games in Miami, Tampa, LA, and Boston, but I aim to go to as many ballparks as possible. And the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY is on my bucket list, with my dad, of course. It wouldn’t be right to go without the man who taught me everything I know.
There is one, absolute perfect feeling that baseball brings me. It’s bigger than the pride of having my home team be consistently reliable despite having a low payroll. It’s far greater than Big Papi’s grand slam home run in the 2013 ALCS game against the Tigers. It even outweighs being amidst the roaring crowd when the Marlins won game seven in the 1997 World Series. The greatest gift baseball has brought me is knowing that while I am watching a Tampa Bay Rays game at my own home, my dad is doing the exact same thing at his. I can expect the phone to ring with him on the other end calling to discuss a play or have me analyze a pitch. This reassuringly predictable behavior makes me smile because I realize my dad never missed out by not having a son. Even though I wouldn’t play tee ball the right way when he was trying to teach me (I decided cartwheels and running around bases the opposite way were necessary to the game), I still learned to love the sport my dad values most. I learned to become the son my dad never had, and I look forward to those phone calls for years to come.
Despite my geographical location, I’m going out on a limb to say this year will be THE year for Tampa Bay Rays baseball. Come on, boys! This is the year they’ll take it all the way to the World Series… and WIN!
(I’m limited with the photos I can add to these blogs since I don’t have my photo albums in Massachusetts. If I could add photos of me as a kid or with my dad I would, but I don’t have any with me. You’ll just have to enjoy photos from the 2013 season.)
46. Plaaaaaaaaay baaaall! – The Sandlot