Spring is but nine days old and there are only six more days until Opening Day. I love this time of year.
We had a fairly mild winter this year, and for the first time that I can remember, we had zero snow days, not even a delay. The promise of green grass on baseball diamonds each April is one of the things that gets me through our typically harsh upstate New York winters. Even though I only shoveled snow twice this winter, the arrival of Major League Baseball next week will still be a welcome change.
From the time I was little, I loved the game. I played Little League, Babe Ruth, and then JV baseball. My baseball playing days ended when I felt like I couldn’t handle the pitching and the big field anymore. My friends outgrew me, in terms of size and skill, but I never let the game get away from me.
I grew up a Baltimore Orioles fan because their AAA minor league team was based in nearby Rochester, NY. I went to Red Wings games every year and loved it when the Orioles came to Rochester each summer to play their minor league counterparts. Driving back home from visits to my Ohio cousins, my dad would time it so that we could go to Cleveland Indians games on those Sunday afternoons.
My dad and my grandmother taught me how to keep score of a baseball game, which we sometimes did while watching the Game of the Week on TV on Saturday afternoons. I remember my grandmother taking two sheets of graph paper and showing me how to draw the grids for a homemade scorebook. She was unbelievably patient as she taught me how to draw accurately, write neatly, and fix my mistakes. My dad was the same way, too, as he taught me about the game. He was often one of my Little League coaches and he prided himself on being the most knowledgeable, fair, and entertaining umpire in town.
My grandmother knew the nuances of the game and as she taught me the incredibly complicated scoring system, she also began to ingrain in me a deep appreciation for baseball. She was also teaching me something more, though – that the more we learn about something, and the more we understand it, then the more we will come to enjoy it.
Despite me being in the third generation (and probably more) of baseball fans in my larger family, I am actually the only baseball fan in my house now. My oldest played baseball through 8th grade, but then switched to playing AAU basketball each spring. My daughter never played softball, and my youngest switched from Little League to playing lacrosse when he was in 4th grade. Nell will watch World Series games with me occasionally, but that’s about it.
My own family seems to be representative of the larger picture of baseball in America in the 21st century. Baseball is dying. NFL football is America’s game now, and there are so many distractions luring young kids away from sandlots and baseball diamonds that they don’t know a change up from a double steal.
No matter. In six days, I’ll be driving home from work in the late afternoon listening to the Orioles take on the Twins on the MLB app on my phone. Hopefully, the sun will be shining, a breeze will be blowing, and the Orioles will be ahead. Spring has sprung and the baseball season is a long one. I might even get out some graph paper when I get home that night and listen to the rest of the game.