Monday, February 21, 2005

That Sound

From out of nowhere, swack.

Through a construction quirk, my office overlooks the open gymnasium so I hear a lot of ping ping ping all winter long as the basketball teams practice, a noise that gets a mite annoying around the 36th straight working hour of listening to it.

But this morning when I stepped out of my office, I heard it, that sound, of a ball hitting a catcher's mitt. Pitcher's got some arm for the leather to be making that exploding snap. One throw is muffled, more of a thud when it connects, curveball a little wide.

It's like getting a sniff of cigarette smoke or a lingering sip of whiskey or whatever drug has hold of your soul. Just one taste and you're ready for it, you need it. Even though you think you don't crave it, you have to have it.

Bring on the baseball. I'm ready for some sunshine, a cold one, and young men dancing on a field of green.

Friday, February 18, 2005

In No Big Hurry

Usually by this time of year (February is the longest month) I am eager, even anxious, for spring training to get underway. I observe "Pitchers and Catchers Report" as a sacred holiday. But not this year.

And it's not just because the Red Sox did the impossible. Not only did the impossible, but did it in such an improbable manner. (I write fiction and if I had submitted a manuscript with that plot line, it would have been tossed as unbelievable.)

No, 2004 was a great season, perhaps the greatest season I will ever experience. The Red Sox were a key component of the utter bliss the 2004 season was, but there was also the revelation of David Wright (3B, NYM) who demonstrated daily what baseball truly is all about, the sheer joy of playing the game with enthusiasm for all parts of it. I got to see him play for the first 2 1/2 months of the season at the AA level, then got to see him at AAA when the Tides made their only trip north the week following his promotion.

I got to see my favorite minor leaguer, Earl Snyder, play several times, every game when the Paw Sox were visiting locally, and again up at Rochester right after his brief call-up to the Olde Towne Team. Not only did I get to see him play (and another favorite, Brian Daubach), I got to share the experience with my best friend and her daughters; the older, Grace, has been bitten by the baseball bug (despite the embarrassment her mom and I put her through in public-- she's at that age). Instead of one game a season at the local park, this year my friend and her daughters came with me for several games including one with Grace only, and we're planning another road trip like the one to see Earl Snyder play, perhaps an overnighter because Grace would like to experience other ballparks. The four of us took a road trip unrelated to baseball, planned before spring training had begun, that landed us in New England for the start of the World Series, an unexpected, welcome treat.

I revisited a ballpark, on the spur of the moment taking a weekend road trip after My Guys had been out of town for 3 weekends in a row, to catch them in New Britain (and accidently ended up at the same hotel -- quiet group, wouldn't have known they were there if I hadn't seen the bus in the parking lot or the coaches at McDonald's at breakfast.) I also added two new parks to my collection including what is, aside from my Home Park, my favorite ballpark, in Harrisburg. I'm hoping one of those road trips we plan will be to that lovely island park.

I also was given tickets for a late August Red Sox game, a huge unexpected treat as I haven't been able to get to Fenway for a while and didn't know when I would get another chance. I was given the right number of tickets to take a friend and his 13 year old daughter to her first professional baseball game. Not only did she get to see the pending world champions play, she got to see Pedro Martinez warming in the bullpen just in front of our seats.

My dad, not much of a baseball fan himself (though he says he wants to come to more than one game this coming year), made a point of being with me to watch the final game at each level of the playoffs because he knew this was historic, and important to me, and he wanted to share it with me.

It's going to be tough for another season to top this one.