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Thankful Thursday II : Take Me Out To The Ballgame

This Thursday I’m thankful for baseball being back.

Yes, the boys of summer are back, with all 30 Major League clubs opening up their spring training camps by today. Mind you, not all players have to report to the camps in Florida and Phoenix until month’s end, when the first exhibition games will begin taking place and the first few days usually consist of little more than a handful of players – largely unproven ones eager to compete for a spot on the roster – doing a few stretches and jogging around the field. But still… baseball is back. With it, hints of a long, lovely summer ahead and flashbacks to generations of summers gone by. …

When I lived in Canada, Spring Training held a special place in my heart because it was something hopeful. Winter’s there were long and dark, but when baseball began revving up its engines, there was hope in the air that spring might find a way to arrive after all. It usually beat the first northward bound Robins back by about two weeks. I often aspired to, but never quite made it to, visiting Dunedin (a St. Petersburg suburb that’s training site to my beloved Blue Jays) in March to get a look at the year’s edition of the team up close with a big helping of warm sunshine on the side. This year, for the first time since I moved south, it has that very same appeal, beginning in a week where we’ve been housebound for days after 0-degree weather and two major snow and ice storms. The thought of a sunny afternoon watching a double play unfold is doubly appealing.

I’m unusual as a Canadian. As a small kid, I didn’t mind watching hockey and collected hockey cards like the rest of the boys in my neighborhood, but my heart was with the Boys of Summer. I loved playing ball when I had the chance (my friends who watched me drop ball after ball or run away from incoming flyballs probably didn’t love it as much when I did!), loved watching the few games that were televised back then and poured over the stats on the back of the cards I collected. It seemed the perfect game to me. It was best enjoyed in fine weather, in the sunlight on a grassy field. Lots of math, lots of strategy, lots of big personalities, the game playing itself out as it might without regards to a clock. It was like chess in that…and yes, little nerdy me played chess too! Of course, maybe that wasn’t so unlike other Canadian kids. Baseball trivia buffs are often surprised to find out how many times Toronto, Canada has had the highest attendance of any big league team for the year outdrawing baseball “meccas” like Boston, New York and St. Louis. Back then, for reasons hard to remember, I was a Cincinnati fan and when our family drove back from Florida and crossed the Ohio River, I looked out at the stadium like a Muslim approaching Mecca. That was the house of Pete Rose. Johnny Bench. Joe Morgan.

Of course, as I got a bit older, my hometown (approximately) got its own team and I was soon converted to a Blue Jays loyal. The first few years they were bad, but they played with heart and had cool caps. Then they got good and it got really exciting. When they finally got to the World Series in 1992, life in the city changed. Temporarily and for the better. Everyone was a fan. Everyone wanted to talk about the Jays. Wear a tie with the Blue Jays logo in to work and everyone was your friend. Customers who’d usually complain their order wasn’t ready on time or about a price increase were all smiles discussing that incredible glove of ‘Devo’ or ‘who knew Sprague was that good, eh!’. There were no Liberals or Conservatives, Whites or Blacks, there was just a city of baseball fans.

Of course, since 1993, there’ve been ups and downs for the Toronto fans…more down than up frankly… but a winning streak still has the magical power to unite the city. A lot has changed in the game too. Strategies have changed, computers have largely replaced old-fashioned scouts watching players and there’s less subtlety to the games… fewer bunts, fewer pitchers trying to pick off a runner, more big hitters swinging for the fences with no regard to just getting on base. But still, it’s baseball. America’s pastime.

Hope springs eternal they say, and in spring hope’s eternal for ball fans. Everyone’s in a first-place tie. There’s a long summer of games for that to change during; a long season of “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” being played, just as it was 50, 80 years ago. And after a year of Covid lockdowns, a winter of ice and snow, the idea of the familiar seems rather great.

6 Replies to “Thankful Thursday II : Take Me Out To The Ballgame”

  1. I was never fortunate to live in a MLB city. As I’ve said before…I would trade our NFL Titans for any baseball team in a heartbeat.

    Whenever spring comes and I smell of the grass I’m back in little league again. I like you, am stranded at home. We just got 4 more inches last night on top of 3 inches and a half inch of ice. I pulled out the 1981 World Series last night and watched a couple of games to see the Dodgers beat the Yankees again.

    Baseball is a mile marker every year to tell us where we are at… Great post Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you! Yeah, we had more freezing rain yesterday, still in the 20s temperatures today but tomorrow, fingers crossed, should hit 40. Even the post office has been closed in our part of the city the last two days. Hope you’ve got power again… we’ve been lucky here, it hasn’t gone out whereas we know people two main roads over who were without for a full day. We did have water pipes burst though, that wasn’t fun… who knew there was a line going up from the kitchen across the ceiling?! So the idea of spring, let alone summer, and normal baseball games is good!
      Coincidence that I mentioned Robins in the post … one of the good signs of spring up north. I saw a flock of about 130 of them flying through the yard this morning… lots of them here in winter but it was an unusually large flock, and all flying stealthily north!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We get up to 38 on Saturday…that is our first sign of relief. We only lost power that first night and are lucky. There are people out there that has had no power since Monday….with single digits at night.

        Oh geez water pipes freezing sucks. We have been lucky in that regard. Oh man the ceiling? That had to be a mess. Our water hasn’t even frozen up.

        Any sign of spring is a great thing!

        Liked by 1 person

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