Monday, July 6, 2009

For It's Money they Have and Peace They Lack (Yep, Baseball)

Major League Baseball announced the National and American League All-Star Teams this morning. Whoopdeedoo. Two Padres made it as “Player’s Picks”. HoHum. Overpaid “stars” who we’re supposed to revere. I can’t get excited about it anymore.

I like Everth Cabrera though. He’s the Padres new shortstop. A rookie. Never played higher than Class A until this year. The Padres have to keep him on their roster all year because of “Rule 5”. Now he’s the starting shortstop. He plays with joy and abandonment; hustle and pluck. That’s the way the game is supposed to be played.
“Field of Dreams” was on the tube last night. I only watched a few minutes of it after my wife went to bed and then changed it. I watched the “people will come speech” by James Earl Jones. It’s a cool speech. I didn’t want to see the scene which makes us 50-plus guys cry when Costner says “Hey Dad, do you want to have a catch.” I wasn’t in the mood for late Sunday melancholy—life’s enough of a bummer right now.

We need more baseball—real baseball. Played for fun. We need more vacant lots too where “sandlot” games can crop up; where kids can gather with gloves and old bats and balls and bases made of pieces of cardboard. Sandlots where the games last all day until Moms holler for dinner, the sun gets low and kids troop off until tomorrow’s game. That doesn’t happen anymore. The world’s not safe enough.

Like James Earl Jones said in the “people will come speech”: “And the memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.” That’s what I’m doing right now. The 4th of July is over. As a kid and teen, the 4th of July usually meant I was playing baseball somewhere—Little League, Babe Ruth or American Legion. In small town North Dakota, Legion ballgames usually encouraged cars to park around the perimeter of the field, headlights on to supplement the dim lights on the poles. It was tough at times when they would flash high beams at visiting players in the batters box.

I think I was 20 the last time I played catch with my Dad. And, I think I was about 45 the last time I played catch with my daughter. You can’t believe how often I’d just like to go out and throw the ball around.

Loosen up my stiff muscles and joints with the muscle memory of the throwing motion. Hear the smack of a ball in a glove; feel the sting when the ball finds too much of the pocket and not enough of the web. Feel the easy exertion, the slight shoulder twinge and the pressure in my fingertips as the ball leaves on a straight and true flight to my throwing partner. As a kid, when we weren’t playing baseball at a practice or game, we’d be throwing in the back yard. Pitching in our mythical World Series.

But the only time I ever see anything like that anymore is down at the field a block from my house. It’s a baseball field on a school property which is used by the high school JV and by Babe Ruth Leaguers—and which is locked up at all other times. The school is afraid of vandalism. Only occasionally, and rarely, will I see a Dad and kids out there throwing, hitting a bit, having fun and learning the game.

“For it’s money they have, and peace they lack.” I don’t have much money right now and certainly not much peace. And oh but I wish I still had just a little bit of baseball. That would bring just a bit more peace. I bet Everth Cabrera slept like a baby last night dreaming of chasing a grounder into the hole, stabbing it, wheeling and throwing out the batter at first. Lucky guy!

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