I’ve had more than my share of realizations in my 40’s – and most especially now in this new world we live in, with more time to think – and one of them is that baseball has literally saved my life. It’s not just the on field stuff, though there are few things more majestic in this world than sitting back on a warm summer day and hearing the crack of the bat or watching a pitcher dominate on the mound, tension building with each pitch.
It’s just that baseball has simply always been there when I’ve needed it the most. And now that it’s in this unprecedented state of uncertainty, it feels like everything it previously provided me with – hope, joy, excitement – is missing along with it.
I started playing little league the summer after my Expos made it all the way to game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, and still, 38 years later, the sport still occupies a large place in my heart —- that same heart that’s been broken by brushing playoff defeats, yet also been filled with joy and amazement by astonishing on field performances, friendships formed, and thrilling visits to LA and Dodger Stadium.
In my teenage years watching Tim Wallach carry himself with grace, a quiet leader humble in his talents, made me want to be like him when I grew up. (I still do). 7 years ago at a crossroads in my life, when I first started following the Dodgers and fell hard for the sheer majesty of Clayton Kershaw, I also quickly learned what a great human being he is, and this made me want to get better, be better, and find my way back to happiness again. I’m still working on some aspects of that but am absolutely certain that I wouldn’t be the content, grateful person I’ve become if not for the inspiration of these two (for me) once in a lifetime players.
The absence of the sheer routine of baseball has given me plenty of time to think, and I’ve come to the conclusion that being a fan of this team and this game makes me a better person, or at least the person I was meant to be. I’d even go so far as to say I like myself better when I am watching, talking, living baseball. It’s the thing that sets my soul on fire, and because it makes me happy, brings out a confidence in me that I often have to search to find without it. With that previously elusive inner peace and confidence in tow, when I do have the privilege of visiting LA and Dodger Stadium, it transforms me. It’s warm, welcoming, inviting. People are happy to see me, and I feel as though I’m where I truly belong.
My life, regardless of the emotional or physicals state it’s been in over the years, has always remained “baseball-themed”. Though I stopped playing co-ed softball a few years back, I still have the same glove I’ve had since I was 12 and will never part with. I own jerseys, hats and clothing, and all the trinkets like Xmas ornaments, keychains, lanyards, bags and purses. All Dodgers, and all baseball.
Reminders of the fun, hopeful side of life.
The business and the dark side of this game turned this offseason into the darkest in its existence, starting with the discovery that the A*tros cheated our Dodgers out of a World Series crown in 2017, and continuing on through what seems like a complete free fall since then that we are still smack dab in the middle of with the world completely changed during this pandemic.
For a lifelong baseball fan, losing that emotional connection has been almost impossible process. Even for a normally optimistic, glass is more full than empty fan like me, the world feels like a very dark place right now, and there’s no getting around that. We need sunshine, fresh air, a new season, new beginnings – however altered they may seem this year – and soon.
If absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder, those of us who have been reminded of why we fell in love with the game to begin with need it back, hopeful that baseball can help us find a way to deal with this new reality of the world we now live in.
And save our lives, once again.