Man, it must be spring.
And OK, we can all acknowledge the heady concepts of renewal and rebirth that spring foreshadows, but none of these notions amount to a hill of beans when it comes to what spring really offers -- the arrival of a new baseball season. The anticipation. The possibility.
I have to admit that every year my attachment, my need for baseball, seems to grow deeper. I guess it's really been the only consistent thing in my life, from those boyhood days growing up in New England until now. No doubt about it -- I am as pumped today for the promise of this new baseball season as I was back then, and I can't help but let it pull me back and reconnect me to a place and time still so vibrant and alive in my heart.
In those days, I was so starved for baseball come November that I literally spent the rest of the winter running around our back yard in New Haven, Conn. -- a yard piled high with snow -- in full catcher's gear, whipping a frozen tennis ball off of an equally solid ice block of a garage wall, diving headfirst for any haphazard bounces, my mask jammed with snow. Nettles out at the plate! What a play! Fenway on its feet! Red Sox win!
Finally, April arrived. And after months in exile, my beloved Red Sox were back. The images of my heroes splattered across my bedroom walls -- Fisk, Lynn, Rice and Yaz -- were alive again. From that moment on, I dreamt of nothing else but for the total destruction of those hated Yankees, and the joy I would feel when my Red Sox made it to baseball's mountaintop, at the big dance in October.
But most notably, the birth of a new season meant more hang time with my father, from whom I had inherited this uniquely New England disease. "A fate of lineage," he would always say.
I can remember weekends waiting anxiously in my bedroom for my father's call to baseball arms, a call which signaled his self-imposed break from correcting students' papers, a call that hustled us up to grab our gloves and Sox hats from a kitchen broom closet and then ushered us out into our bumpy, narrow back yard to play long toss for what seemed like hours. Back and forth, not a word was spoken, the only sound the pop of a ball in a mitt.
Evenings were spent at the dining room table doing my homework to the ticktack rhythm of my father's typewriter while Ned Martin called Sox games from inside our Magnavox stereo radio. During the course of the night, when events teetered on the verge of disaster, I'd drop my pencil and look to my father for guidance.
"Concentrate your forces, boy," he would say, pushing back from his typewriter and closing his eyes in meditation. I followed his lead, and there we would sit in total silence, eyes closed, willing Martin and the baseball gods to turn the moment in our favor.
Sundays meant pre-dawn car rides to Fenway Park in a VW Bug -- the intention was to arrive as early as possible so we could wander the neighborhood, taking in its mythic aura. In the bleachers at Fenway on those afternoons, my father never seemed more alive, existing totally in the moment. Rejoicing, protesting, reveling, cajoling with our fellow fans, his arm around my shoulder, teaching.
Teaching me the deeper lessons that baseball had to offer: each season a journey with its own unique process founded on the principle of one game at a time, one pitch at a time. And most importantly, no matter the journey's result, it was the character that you achieved for having persevered that mattered most. Fenway Park, where my father still sits in my memory's snap shot. Peacefully locked in a timeless place, his arms thrown back, his face arched towards the sun … free.
Memory dissolves and fades back up to the present, and the promise of this new baseball season. Man, think of the possibilities! I am giddy -- seriously giddy -- with simply the thought of the whole crazy thing.
And I'll be honest -- being an old-school Red Sox fan who still suffers flashback palpitations, I need a little reassurance each spring that the war is over, a little coaxing to trust that days of Dame Mutability are gone, and that it's safe to emerge from the weeds, leave my bamboo shack, drop my weapon and accept the reality that today stares me in the face -- those two shiny World Series trophies. But, you know, I always take the leap. It's my duty, because it matters, because I need it, because it reconnects me. But most of all, because I love this game.
So, bring it on.
All is right in the world.