I've noticed an orange tinge to the sunlight these days. Yellow and brown leaves fleck the trees in our back yard. The oak tree next to the garage is nearly bare. A chilly Lake Michigan breeze swept through here a few minutes ago, carrying the damp, fresh scent that always reminds me of the first day of school.
Television and newspapers are full of college and National Football League football. Every day, headlines proclaim how the Green Bay Packers and the astonishing (and also very cute) Bret Favre are in great form this year.
It's getting harder and harder to ignore the presence of fall.
Even so, for me, summer continues as long as baseball is being played. With my team still statistically in the you-know-what race, though that annoying team to our south has inched ahead of us, I have to do what I can to help the Brewers win.
With the team on a road trip, that's been a full-time job. I have to be in my family room pacing as I watch our pitchers load the bases with one out and a slim lead. To change the luck, I have to switch back and forth between the television broadcasters and my favorites, Bob Uecker and Jim Powell. If I'm driving my car during a game, I have to shout encouragement with every pitch (and hope that I can remember where I'm going).
When the team plays at home, I get help from folks in the stands who are working just as hard as I am. You could call us consultants, since many of us seem to know exactly what pitcher Ned Yost should have called from the bullpen and which pinch-hitter should be on deck. Now and then, I'm surrounded by experts on balls and strikes, as well as fouls and balks. Being a steady fan is hard work.
In case I don't get to use the postseason tickets I bought a few weeks ago, I'd like to thank the team and the management for a great year. Rookie Ryan Braun, and later Corey Hart, were surprising bonuses, whose stunning power changed the tenor of every game they played. However, I reserve special accolades for Prince Fielder, a genuinely royal star of our team.
My souvenir for this year, besides a dozen bobblehead dolls, will be the image of Fielder in the batter's box prepared for a pitch. His bat moves so quickly, my eyes can't keep up. Suddenly, I hear the exhilarating smack as the ball launches toward the sky. When winter descends, I'll still be able to remember the sight of Fielder slowing a moment to watch before he motors around the bases. I'll be able to feel my heart race as the crowd roars and the outfielder turns his back to us. I'll remember slapping high-fives to the people around me after the ball careens into the left-field bleachers, or ricochets off the scoreboard or sails beyond the center-field concourse.
A year of firsts
For the first time in ages, tickets to Brewers games have been hard to come by. Day after day, I've joined lines of cars jamming the freeway on the way to the park. I've seen and heard sold-out stadiums throbbing with fans who follow the plays, know the players and applaud until our brilliant slugger takes his hat off after another majestic, blistering home run.
I'm proud of our city, proud of our beautiful stadium and honored by the great team that started out as a bunch of young players.