Today is opening day for Major League Baseball. On diamonds across the country there will be the smell of fresh cut grass, the "pop" of ball hitting mitt, and the sight of grown men playing a little boy's game.
Baseball is kinda like coffee - it's an acquired taste, and it's not for everyone. But for those who love it, well, there is no substitute. To the casual fan, it's not as fast-paced as basketball. Not as exciting as football. But for what baseball lacks in sizzle, it more than makes up for in substance. Baseball has its own pace, its own rhythm.
Baseball is a game of great tradition, and unwritten rules. You don't steal a base when you're up by nine runs, you dare not stand too long and watch the flight of the ball you just struck, and if you hit one of our guys, we'll hit one of yours. The third baseman must be the last to touch the ball before the pitcher gets it back and, whatever you do, don't step on the foul line when you run on/off the field! You won't find such laws in the official rule book, but every baseball player knows them, and most respect them.
Baseball is a game of nuance and strategy. Do you bunt the runner over, or let the batter swing away? The starting pitcher is cruising. Do you dare lift him for a pinch hitter late in the game, or leave him in and hope he has enough gas left to seal the deal? Do you use your left handed reliever in the 7th, or save him for the 9th, knowing the other team has a dangerous left-handed bat on their bench? Baseball is a thinking man's game. A chess match.
Baseball has been part of my life since I was five. It is an old friend. I love its sights, sounds, and smells. I wish I could say I was a good player, but I really wasn't. By the grace of God, I did make one all-star team in middle school. (Had to throw that in there.) But my high school career was mediocre at best. Nevertheless, I loved the game. Loved being on the field. Loved being part of a team.
I remember quite well my freshman year at college. Spring evenings came, and there was no baseball. It hurt. Eventually, I got used to it. And now, like a lot of other guys in their 30s, I try to fill the void with slow-pitch softball. I'm not very good at that either. But it at least gives me an excuse to wear my glove and swing a bat.
There is a saying in baseball, "Hope springs eternal." Every spring, every game, every at-bat is a new opportunity to be a hero (see above video of the greatest baseball moment of my lifetime). Even if you struck out yesterday, today is a new day. This is why we love the game. Welcome back, baseball.