Loving the game

The clunk the bat made when it landed in the dirt brought a smile to my face and took me back to my Baltimore childhood. Kevin Costner was about to hit a few to the actor playing Shoeless Joe Jackson in he movie “Field of Dreams.” Costner hefted a couple of bats, chose one and dropped the other to the ground, making that dull but familiar musical sound.

In the past few days I have watched this film and “A League of Their Own” because I love baseball. It’s as much a part of who I am as my arthritis and love of Chesapeake Bay crabs. Some kids grow up skating on ponds and whacking at hockey pucks. Others practice free throws and dunks in their driveways. In my World War II Baltimore, my pals and I played baseball well past summer’s end, until our hands turned blue from the cold. And we cheered for the Orioles.

Baseball’s critics in our fast-paced world of today argue that watching baseball is boring, too slow to be interesting; there’s too little action, not enough scoring. We who love and understand the game respond that these folks simply don’t know what they’re seeing, don’t really understand how to watch it. Baseball is a symphony of details, the pitcher’s grip, the batter’s stance, the runner’s lead off base, the infielder’s positioning that changes with each pitch, the hitter’s graceful follow through.

Appreciate with me the experience of the ballpark, be it in a small-town public park or a billion-dollar major league temple. Sit down, have a hot dog and cold drink, lean forward as the pitcher fires his first pitch, fastball, low and away. Smile at the thwack as the ball hits the catcher’s mitt, and that familiar clunk as a tossed bat lands in the dirt. Relax and enjoy a great sport.

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training camps in mid-February. It can’t come soon enough for me.

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