Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Put Me In Coach....
“Baseball is the most perfect of games, solid, true, pure and precious as diamonds. If only life were so simple. Within the baselines anything can happen. Tides can reverse; oceans can open. That's why they say, "the game is never over until the last man is out." Colours can change, lives can alter, anything is possible in this gentle, flawless, loving game.”
― W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe
Back in my teaching days, I always found it amusing trying to explain to young students about the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish holiday celebrating trees. "The Birthday of the Trees," we would proclaim in loud enthusiastic voices, and then we would go about attempting to make planting of greenery relevant to pre-schoolers who were more than a little bit confused by the sight outside of their windows of snow and ice that are the norm in a Canadian January, as that is when this little gem of a celebration usually falls. "Well," I used to say. "Maybe it doesn't yet feel like spring outside here in Toronto, but in Israel there are signs of the season everywhere." This rationalization is exactly the method that we northern baseball fans use every single February when the Boys of Summer flock to their spring addresses, readying themselves for the always promising season that lay ahead. We may not be able to yet see or smell the grass, but we know that it is just around the corner because Spring Training has begun and tells us so.
It is one thing to fanaticize about once again sitting in the Dome with a scorecard in one hand and a beer in the other while still in the Great White North freezing one's kishkas blue, but it is a whole other experience to make the journey south to be with the lads as they begin their quest for the Holy Grail of October baseball. For the very first time in 37 years, I made that pilgrimage to watch my beloved bluebirds open the spring season. Older Son and I were fortunate enough to grab a couple of seats in the car with our dear friends and chauffeurs The Social Butterfly and his Sephora Girl, and we all headed the 4 1/2 hours north from The Southern Home. It is a baseball fan's dream. Truly. I know that I am gushing, but I am still giddy from the all too brief encounter with the boys.
The weather? It was a perfect 81 degrees. (Sorry Toronto!) The grass? Mowed and trimmed to perfection with just the hint of fragrance wafting into the stands. (Seriously Rogers! Time to spring for the real deal at the Dome. So necessary!) The players? Excited, nervous, open, engaging, and anticipatory. There is a real feeling of expectation this year and it isn't just amongst the fans. Being a Toronto sports fan, I find it difficult to get overly excited about pre-season prognostications, but this group has the talent. Here's hoping for good health, breakout seasons, and return to form. My son? Happier and more glowing than he has been in a very long time. He spent a great deal of time hanging out down at the fence trying to chat up the guys. While most just went about their business, I think he still got a contact high just from the close proximity.
A few random thoughts about the 48 hour excursion.
I loved the small town feel of Dunedin. It reminded me of Stratford Ontario; a town that is totally centred around one industry for a finite period of time every year. The Stadium is right down the middle of the main street and all of the locals seem consumed with the Blue Jays. If felt very different from the Phillies complex that we passed on the highway in Clearwater....big place in a big city. Dunedin feels like Anytown America, population in the thousands.
Stadium seats only about 4,800 people. They try to separate the visiting team fans to one side so that you don't have to fraternize. Everybody becomes fast friends, even if they are cheering for the Red Sox.
I knew that I wasn't at the Dome when the PA announcer came on to advise us all that if a foul ball hit any of our parked cars, we would be gifted with a free chicken sandwich. Every time one of the guys managed to foul it off behind the plate, Older Son and I looked at each other and yelled "Chicken Sandwich!"
The Voldemort Skipper of that team wearing the red sox (he who shall not be named) was booed mercilessly when first announced, and again when he came out to deliver the lineup card. He is in for a very rough ride whenever the Beantowners visit this season.
Joey Bats cranked one in the first game. The good news? He pulled it to left, thus turning his formerly injured wrist over in the process. He looked good!
Mr. Knuckleballer has one weird pitch. He wasn't yet in mid-season form as he hadn't yet harnessed the dancing ball, but his out pitch is odd, unreadable, and hard. He is a keeper.
As are both the pitchers that came over in the mega deal. Both were popping the glove at 95 mph regularly.
Mr. "I'm sorry for the drug use and won't ever do it again" cracked two doubles, one to the opposite field. If he can do that this season with regularity, he will be perfect in the 2 slot.
I loved watching the kids. There is an eagerness to all of them that reminded me of watching my nephew playing Little League. These guys are still in love with the game and it shows. Like John Fogerty wrote:
Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it's time to give this game a ride.
Just to hit the ball and touch 'em all - a moment in the sun;
(pop) It's gone and you can tell that one goodbye!
Baseball is back my friends and there is optimism in the air. I know that it is cold and miserable back home, but take heart.....summer is coming home with the Blue Jays.
"Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal." ~ George Will