Play Ball

by Arthur W. Anderson

The field of dreams —Dodger Town’s Grapefruit League stadium—lay before me as I sat on the top level in my blue seat. Reverie took over. My first thought was: Why don’t I rent a place in Vero Beach next year and come to all the games. I could see good major league baseball at one-third the price with no parking worries. Then I reflected on the time some 28 years ago when my son, Kirk, and I stole out onto the field to hit and field baseballs until a caretaker spotted us and invited us to leave. Standing next to Don Drysdale, Claude Osteen (Gomer), and other celebrities to watch the boys of spring practice made my heart pump. Now, that same stadium has been gussied up a bit. And I can hardly identify a player. But the old fever is still high. When the pastor of my teen years asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said “carpenter,” thinking he might suggest something as unmanly as “minister.” What I really wanted to do was to be one of these summer boys. Of course, I didn’t have the stuff for it. But the nostalgia is still there!

With the smell of big bucks, the free agency market, the way self-worth is sold to the highest bidder, and the utter decimation of team loyalty, my baseball nostalgia is greatly compromised with cynicism. I went to an Indians game once last year, but I sat in the front seats up in the fourth heaven. With my acrophobia, I couldn’t look down on the field without feeling an impulse to jump.

Last summer, the kid in me, with a friend or two, went to see the Duluth Dukes, of the Northern League, play. Now this was close to pure baseball. Here was a place where I could whoop it up and sit close enough to see a rip in the first baseman’s pants. To top it off, I had the privilege of seeing the first woman pitcher in professional baseball start the game. For four innings, she had the Madison squad handcuffed. Who wouldn’t stand up and shout as this femme highwinder struck out three hefties in a row from the top of the batting order? The sharp crack in the catcher’s glove each time would make music to start a parade.

It’s a silly game, of course. Grown up men (and a woman) in uniform running around four sacks, tossing a ball back and forth, and men on a slab, looking for all the world like they wanted to bean the guy with the stick in his hands. Thousands sitting around with nothing else to do but yell until their throats get raw. It doesn’t make sense; but there is something about this game—you never know what is going to happen next and what the out-come will be. That’s the delight of adventure—and life at its best. As Peter Gomes of Harvard wrote: “Few of us can orchestrate the conclusions of our lives…. We may not be able to make an end, but by God’s grace, we are enabled to make a beginning…”