Summer’s not here, yet.
But that doesn’t mean the ‘season’ hasn’t started.
‘The Boys of Summer’ have arrived.
They showed up again this year, like they do every year.
About the time the jonquils bloom,
And the dogwood trees begin to bud.
There’s that certain ‘something’ in the air.
A familiar and sensory remembering.
A thud, as ball hits glove.
A smack, as bat hits ball.
And the sights and sounds of the game begin, again.
I’ve waited all winter.
I’ve marked the calendar, and watched as the months have slowly rolled by.
And now, it’s back. The ‘season’ is here.
And that season is called ‘Baseball.’
I’ve grown up loving that game. I was never very good. Average, I was. Maybe even below average, as an outfielder. But I have loved the game of baseball since I was a little boy. There was just something about the throwing and catching and fielding and running around bases that got into my blood. And now that I have grandkids, I am pleased to report that a love for baseball must be genetic. My grandkids love baseball, too. My grandson, Brody is ready for the season to begin!
One of the happiest days of the year when I was a little boy growing up in the shadow of The Gateway Arch, was the day the pitchers and catchers for the St. Louis Cardinals showed up for Spring Training. At bedtime, early every night of the season all summer long, I would lie in bed, listening to the Cardinal game on a little radio in my back bedroom. Great joy when the Card’s won; tragic sadness when they lost. And one of the saddest moments of the year was that instant when the last pitch produced the last out of the last inning of the baseball season, every Fall.
Now that I am older — not old, mind you, but older — I’ve had time to reflect on not only why I love baseball, but what I now see as a valuable life lesson I can take away from that game I love so much. Today, I’ve been thinking about a word that comes to mind as I compare the game of baseball to the game … of life.
For a certainty, one of the necessary ingredients for successfully managing life these days is the idea of ‘preparedness.’ And if there’s one word that describes baseball, it would have to be the word ‘prepared.’
Big league ballplayers know what it’s like to live a life of preparation. They’ve practiced and honed their skills to an incredibly high level. They’ve been preparing for what they now call their ‘careers’ since they were little boys like my grandson, Brody. Hours of little league games. Hours of running, and fielding, and hitting and catching. Game after game, they play on. They love it. They positively love the game they play. Yes, they love to practice; they love preparing for the big leagues. (Note: Every little league player wants to be in the big leagues, one day.)
Big league ball players know, of course, that their preparation doesn’t stop, once they reached the majors. That’s what Spring Training is all about. Season after season. Get ready. Get in shape. Prepare.
The game itself is nine innings of preparation, when you think about it. Every time a major league player picks up a bat, he knows. Every time he walks to the plate, he has to prepare all over again. He stands in the batter’s box, pounding the plate with his bat. He waits, as the pitcher prepares to deliver a pitch. The umpire prepares, too. Dust off the plate. Adjust the mask. Lean toward the mound. Get ready. And while the umpire gets set, the batters are busy preparing, too. Tightening their batting gloves. They take a few practice swings, because all batters know that, any second now, that pitcher will be bringing the ball to the plate at ninety-plus miles per hour, and they’ve got to be ready to hit it when it arrives. Not much time to react. No advance notice about whether the pitch that’s about to be thrown is a curveball or fastball. That pitch they are waiting for is a secret. (The catcher knows. But he’s not telling.) All the batter can do is wait, and take his practice swings, and be prepared as the ball approaches the plate.
No matter what I’m waiting to see happen today, I would be wise to adopt a ‘batting stance’ of daily readiness for this ‘season’ I am living in; I need to stay alert. I need to be prepared. There’s no question that life is coming at me at ninety-five miles and hour, and as if that weren’t enough, there are those curve balls which inevitably come my way, whether I expect them or not.
That having been said, let the season begin. The Boys of Summer are back. And two of my favorite words in the English language are about to be spoken: “Play ball.”