I can’t quantify my love for baseball by typing words onto a computer screen. But to me, it’s the perfect combination of relaxation, drama, hand claps and groans. It’s borderline insulting when people refer to it as “just a game,” but that’s the naïveté of a person I don’t need to concern myself with. Baseball is bigger than a sport in our great region; it’s in our blood.
Admittedly, it wasn’t my first love. Hockey reigned, and in the early 90’s, Boston was a hockey town. Fans didn’t want to shell out hard earned dollars to watch Aaron Sele or Tim Naehring, the hot tickets were always courtesy of the Garden seating arrangement, where Cam Neely and Ray Bourque were entrenching themselves in as Boston icons. I wanted to be an NHL star, budding from my early days of “making hockey saves” by throwing a tennis ball off my bedroom wall and perfecting my reflexes to stop it from making its way past my defenses.
But then, baseball happened. I couldn’t play hockey, because it was too expensive. But baseball was cheap in Milton, apparently, and from the day I first donned my Kansas City Royals tee ball uniform, hockey and everything else went on the back burner. It began to encompass my life. I absentmindedly memorized the 1994 Sox roster- Damon Berryhill, anyone? I waited in line, hours wasted, in a forgotten department store for a Troy O’Leary autograph. The first grand slam I ever saw a Bostonian hit was delivered by the light stick of Bill Haselman. I used to get Jose Canseco confused with John Valentin, and have no idea why. I believed Dan Duquette when he said Clemens was “in the twilight of his career,” I rooted for Rudy Pemberton to garner more at bats, and I refused to change the channel in the 8th inning of a 15 run shellacking by the Bronx Bombers. Strike shortened seasons were absolutely devastating, crippling even… as if going four months without ball isn’t torture enough!
But it isn’t just the ball being thrown on a dime to the plate from center field, some leather being flashed at the hot corner, or a runner determined to steal home in a one run nail biter that I found so enamoring. In fact, I still can’t put my finger on what exactly it is that I love. Probably because there are too many factors to take into consideration whenever I try to determine why I truly can’t imagine an entire calendar year without America’s Pastime. But here are a few:
This isn’t to say the game is without flaws. The pace of play can turn away casual fans overnight, 40 years ago cocaine was dusting clubhouse floors, and although the steroid era was detrimental and deadly (see: Ken Caminiti), it sure as hell revived the sport. And it seems MLB leaned their lesson; juice the balls, not the players.
I don’t know about the rest of Sox Nation, but the next four months cannot go by fast enough. Albeit, the beauty of baseball in the New England area is a year round sport, and we’ve already dug our feet in for what looks like an exciting, transaction based offseason, as Dave Dombrowski and Alex Cora look to build and direct a roster towards a fourth World Series trophy in fourteen years. And if they fall short, fuck it, I’ll live. Baseball isn’t going anywhere.