February 14, 2008

Looking out my window this morning I can tell it is cold, very cold. The sun is visiting for just a short while I'm sure, making the snow on the roof tops glisten brightly, and the snow on the ground is showing shadows of the black trees in elongated patterns. Tomorrows weather forecast says our low is going to be in single digits.

But today is the 14th day of February, Valentines Day actually, but also it is the day that pitchers and catchers report to all the major league training camps to start limbering up for a couple weeks before the rest of the team shows up and spring training gets under way in full force. It's the day baseball fans have been waiting for.

Yes, we've had football, college and professional, basketball, college and professional, and for those in more northern climes hockey also. But for dedicated fans there is no sport you can get your teeth into better than baseball. So for the next eight months we will dedicate some time each and every day to the health and well being of our chosen band of well paid brothers. We will rise with their successes and mutter over their failures hoping that when all the eliminating of lesser teams is accomplished that our chosen band will be standing tall and proud on that glorious day in October.

But for baseball fans of my age, who have watched many season, there was that wonderful time when we were part of the great game albeit in a little less grandness.

Millions of boys my age who spent a good deal of time growing up in post WWII America, in newly built housing projects, remember the empty spaces where houses had not yet been built, spaces just exactly the right size to accommodate sandlot baseball. Sandlot baseball, that wonderful game that fielded teams of little boys, big boys, in between sized boys, and the occasional girl who had the grit to get herself a little dirty and a little grass stained. Talent was not required, but a desire to play the game was. Equipment was ragtag, uniforms, of course not. It was going to be a great game if the game ball was still stitched up. Some of us never knew that baseballs were supposed to be white.

Games started whenever we could get together five or so for each team, games ended when one or more parents would open their front doors and yell for the pitcher, or first basemen to come home to supper.

Statistics or game notes were never kept, except in our hearts. They must have been written in the same ink that valentines are made from, because when this time of year, spring training, arrives the memories arrive with that picture in our hearts of those dusty days when our biggest fear was that the ball would unravel before the game was ended. I remember, I smile to myself knowing the ball has not completely unraveled yet.

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