Ah, yes. Baseball season is officially upon us.
For those of us who are die-hard baseball fans, the 150 days between the last game of the World Series, and Opening Day might as well be 150 years. In fact, anxiety starts to build up early on in the playoffs, not because of any concern about who will win (statistically speaking, one’s favorite team was probably eliminated before the regular season even ended), but because the countdown to baseball hiatus is on in earnest. Five months of no baseball to obsess over means a whole lot of down time with nothing to do.
Luckily, in this era of the 24-hour news cycle, and competition for news coverage, the off-season no longer means one has to go cold-turkey. There exists a parallel universe of “Baseball in Theory,” consisting of endless websites, sports channels, publications, blogs, listserves that help keep the baseball addict from experimenting with football or basketball. No sooner is the Major League Baseball season officially over in early November—yes, November!—than the recapping of the season begins. Then the speculation over who will win the annual player awards. Then the actual awards. Then the breakdown of who won the awards. Then the discussion of how the winning or not winning of the aforementioned award will impact the player’s ability to negotiate a better contract. Then coverage of the “Hot Stove” winter meetings where owners sign free agents, which may or may not include the aforementioned players who may or may not have won the aforementioned awards. Then analysis of each deal that was made or not made. And this barely gets the baseball fan through the winter holidays.
Seventy five percent of our family loves baseball. Since this constitutes a Super Majority in our household, and includes 100 percent of the family’s planners and financers of family outings, we tend to gravitate toward baseball-oriented activities. Annual treks to Spring Training in Arizona, a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Major League Fan Fests, baseball and memorabilia stores. Of course, we do not endorse a mob rule mentality. Hotels for such trips are chosen to be amenable to our family’s token non-baseball fan, so in those moments when she is not being dragged to a baseball event, she can briefly splash in a nice pool or get dropped off at a resort’s Kids Club, while the rest of us go to a game.
Our statistical outlier offspring aside, I have to say, as a family, we are collectively well-informed about baseball goings-on. My son in particular is a marvel of historical and strategic information, spanning 100 years of the sport. He has classmates who like the sport, and they trade stories about games and players. But, to be honest, the depth of my son’s understanding of the intricacies and mechanics of the sport are beyond even most seasoned adult fans. To the untrained eye (and ear), my son and his classmates probably seem to be having typical 4th grade banter about the outcome of the previous night’s games. However, in my mind I imagine it is like Stephen Hawking making small-talk with a second grader at an elementary school Science Fair. Sure, they are both technically talking about the same subject…..
Recently we have had reason to be optimistic that our lone baseball holdout seems to be coming around. We signed her up for T-Ball softball with her friends and, thankfully, their uniforms are a color (red) that she would tolerate wearing, even though her preference would be for a pink dress rather than pants, cleats and a visor. She has proven to be an enthusiastic fielder, dutifully squatting in “ready position” before charging at any ball that dribbles toward. The “No Child Left Behind” philosophy at work in 5-year-old T-Ball means that the inning is not over until every child has “batted” and reached base. This can take a very long time, especially when there are shoes to be tied and ponytails to smooth and stuffed animals to wedge out of children’s hands so they can hold a bat. So by the third or fourth batter, my husband, son and I have to turn a deaf ear to groans of “Is it over YET?” But that is not to say her interest in baseball is not growing every day. By the second game of the season, she cheerfully bobbed around the bases with nary a peep, her hands clutching the top of her batting helmet, which did not fit snugly over her head because of a fashionably large scrunchie keeping her hair in place. She stopped at third, caught me eye on the sidelines, and asked: “Can I have a snack now?”