Saturday, February 25, 2006

Give us your baseball memories

Those of us old enough to remember the Red Sox prior to 1967 don't have a lot of fond Red Sox memories. I vaguely remember Frank Malzone catching a popup to preserve a no-hitter (some very old synapses, I could be wrong), and listening to Mom's transistor radio under the covers, infuriating her by burning out the batteries.

But the real memories come from personal experience, throwing a baseball endlessly against a big rock with a strike zone painted on it, playing catch with Dad (who threw 'the drop'), playing ball throughout elementary school, high school, and a little in college. It all paled by comparison with watching my son's Little League games, or daughters' softball.

What makes baseball special is how personal our relationship remains with the game, the shared experience, the closeness we have to the game. We all know how it is to be overpowered at the plate or the frustration of making a bad throw, or dropping that popup. The thrill of victory and pain of defeat aren't the mysteries of Cover 2 or Under Zone defenses, or playing above the rim.

Spring Training like spring brings the promise of renewal, of something better, for achieving something special. Of course, that's how we feel. Major League players grew up in Orlando, or Sacramento, Caracas, or Santo Domingo dreaming of a chance to hit, or run, or throw on the green grass with the brightest lights, before riveted fans. But now, do they embrace the achievement and the joy of their skill, or whine about two hour bus rides and how they're only making a king's ransom?

The long season is a grind, with endless air travel, hotel lobbies, and late nights. Strawberries have to heal, jammed fingers remind the players of yesterday's action, and even the healthiest pitchers have arms that ache. But I don't hear enough players thankful for their gift and their opportunity, products of our fascination with childhood memories.

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