Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Pitchers and Catchers Report Today!

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what
I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." ~Rogers Hornsby

Maybe it won’t make much sense to people who live below the Mason-Dixon line; it certainly won’t make sense to people who aren’t rabid fans of baseball. But there is something in the middle of February that picks people up, revives them from the mid-winter depression and puts color into cold faces. Forget Valentine’s Day, because for the true seam-head, this day has been circled on the calendar since late October. Some fans put it in the back of their minds for a while, but as football season grinds to a close, the pull of this date gets stronger and stronger.

“Pitchers and Catchers report today!” The words roll off the tongue with a kick of hope at the end. In the northeast, there can be entire Februaries when the sun does not shine at all, with freezing temperatures and blanketing snow, making springtime seem centuries away. But that’s not true once Pitchers and Catchers report. Even though it’s still frigid and there’s still ten feet of snow on the ground, it now feels like baseball season. And baseball season means green grass, means blue sky, means warm sun. It means springtime.

Those who do not understand will point out that baseball season is still a long way off- that the whole team will not be working out for another week, that spring training games don’t start for three weeks. Sure, opening day is 45 days away, but that doesn’t matter. “Pitchers and Catchers report today!” says the hopeful fan, regardless of the team and its prospects for the season; it isn’t really the team that gets fans excited about this day. It’s the idea of baseball. It’s about how soon it will be to hear the crack of the bat, the pop of the catcher’s mitt, the woosh of a sliding player trying to avoid a tag.

For just a moment, none of the stats, the salaries, the fan loyalties are important. Briefly, seen through the simplicity of a date on a calendar, fans remember that baseball is just a game. A wonderful, beautiful, poetic game.

“Pitchers and Catchers report today!”
And that makes me smile.

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