On Saturday night my friend C called and invited me over to watch a movie at her house. I obliged and after wandering up and down Netflix, we decided in favor of baseball’s opening day on Monday; to watch Bull Durham, the Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins film. Set against the backdrop of Minor League baseball’s Durham, NC team, the Durham Bulls, the film tells the story of one man’s rise (pitcher) to the Major leagues with the help of a seasoned Minor league (catcher) player whose only time spent in the majors was a short three weeks when he was younger. The movie is hilarious, provocative and romantic, offering some of the best quotes and theories about the sport in which we all love, Baseball.
A few weeks back I signed a petition to make the Opening Day of baseball a national holiday-I wish the petition had worked! Baseball is my sport of choice-the mark of Spring, the joys of Summer and the first tastes of Fall. I grew up loving the smell of my mitt; the feel of the ball, the desire to use a round bat to hit a round ball squarely and the “Whack” sound that bat makes when connected properly to that ball. The sights and sounds of baseball are unmistakable and boy, am I happy today is the day they start all over again.
I grew up a Yankee fan. Please don’t hate… While my parents and Grandparents were die hard Detroit fans, my older brother Bill fell in love with Mickey Mantle and that’s all it took to poison the rest of us siblings against the Tigers. Sometime in college I became bored with baseball in general. My favored Yankees were always winning; bankrolling team after team. The spirit of competition wasn’t there and the sport no longer held my attention. Though I loved the game as a whole, I just couldn’t bring myself to root for them any longer; I needed a change. So in 1991 I switched alliances and began rooting for the worst team in the American Leauge…The Cleveland Indians-who finished the season 57-105-dead last in the American Leauge, period. Now some of you might ask, “Why not root for the Tigers?” Well for a whole slew of reasons, most of which come down to an inability to root for any Michigan team and continuing to root against my parent’s team was fun.
My new team has made baseball interesting and fun for me these past twenty years. The powers that be created a team of youngsters-all signed to long term contracts and then watched them grow. Oh sure there were tweaks made here and there-trades (Most notably SS Felix Fermin to Seattle for Omar Vizquel), demotions, bring-ups etc. and the core team began to play better. As the young pitchers improved team confidence grew. The worst team in the league was fun as they progressed from worst to first in four short years. Best of all…they did all this winning on one of the lowest payrolls in the game. In other words, the Yankees high payroll didn’t buy them winners that year. And though we fell short of winning the the World Series in 1995, my team has continued to be fun to watch-even when they broke our hearts and imploded two years ago going from first to last in a months time.
Today we’re standing on the precipice of another season…the Indians already predicted to not repeat last years’ surprising run to the playoffs. But that makes no difference to me. Yes, Baseball is back and for the next six months you may hear me griping about team play or blown saves or cheers for fantastic catches or runs scored…and I couldn’t be more happy. As the umpires like to say, LET’S PLAY BALL!!
Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd;
buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team, If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out, At the old ball game.