A lot of you may be missing baseball. Some of you are annoyingly parroting phrases like “the new normal” and I’m just over here rolling my eyes.
Normal is what we decide it is. Since baseball is cut short this year I keep thinking about my favorite baseball memories and not a single one of them has anything to do with MLB leagues.
My favorite baseball memories are playing with the kids in my old neighborhood. Shattering a window in the apartment across from my building and thinking my dad would murder me for it. Practicing with my younger cousin who had an arm on him so bad that I always ended up with welts from playing catcher. Teaching my kids to play… and best of all opening up my backyard to other kids in my neighborhood.
My first house was a cute little brick home within a mile of St. Louis City. The neighborhood wasn’t what it used to be but I loved my gardens and the giant backyard.
The neighbor boy was always welcome to come over, and as me and my daughters built a friendship with him and his grandma, he sometimes brought friends by. One specific day stands out in my mind and I’ll never forget it:
I gripped the bat and watched the ball. My eldest jumped up and down ready to chase it. The baby crawled around the soft grass.
All the kids knew us. I loved getting to know my neighbors, especially the children. It didn’t matter what they looked like or where they came from, they all just wanted to have fun. Our area housed a lot of non-traditional families ─ grandparents and other guardians raising the children ─ but when we played, none of that mattered.
Eager to enjoy a backyard game of baseball, we didn’t care who lived where. The game brought us together.
Naihe gave me his best pitch. I swung the bat and cracked the ball past him. My daughter raced after it with a herd of kids and they tagged me. I laughed so hard my lungs burned. It was the fountain of youth. I breathed deep, glanced at the eager faces of the children surrounding me and said, “Next up,” ready to coach them for as long as they wanted.
I never much enjoyed pro ball. Too many pampered players arguing over money or leaving teams for “better” deals.
So if you’re missing the game right now, you missed the point of it. Everyone has a park or area they can find and play. Everyone. Baseball never is and never will be cancelled, not by a pandemic or social unrest.