I love baseball, and every year around this time I wax, poetic about Opening Day. This year will be no exception.
But don't worry.
This post isn't going to be filled with statistics and names or metaphors about the game that I've loved all my life. If you don't love baseball, I won't try and convince you. If you do love baseball, you don't need me to tell you why.
Because for me, it's more than a game.
It is just a bat and a ball, but it can unite a city, a state, a family with one swing of that bat or one pitch of that ball. It can make grown men cry, and sometimes, even a 32-year-old woman who usually only cries over road kill and good food spilled on the floor.
It's remembering summers by games that were played -- the crack of the bat, the stitch on a ball, the smell of the grass in the field. It's looking forward to spring training in the dead of winter when every other joy seems frozen beneath layers of ice and of snow -- especially given the historically horrible winter that we've endured.
It's being able to identify players by their batting stance or jersey number and feeling an instant connection with strangers wearing clothes with the old English "D" for my Detroit Tigers.
For me, it's an escape.
Sports in general afford me the opportunity to forget about the mundane concerns of everyday life for a while and to spend time with others who take pleasure in enjoying a similar break. It's a reminder that I can still feel excited about something when I feel the weight of the world on my mind.
For me, it's family.
It's a 92-year-old woman who can't always remember who I am, but who might tell me about a game in 1948 with a clarity time hasn't stolen quite yet.
But I know this year will be different. Gram doesn't understand the games on TV and can't comprehend what we're watching. Selfishly, this makes me sad because I feel like we lost our big "thing" -- the talks about players, the gripes about calls, the excitement of recaps and scores.
Yet watching the game with her takes me right back to being sprawled on her living room floor as a kid, watching each game on mute while Ernie Harwell came through on the radio (but not lying underneath the ceiling fan, as I was warned the goddamn thing would inevitably fall on me and crush me to death. Fuzzy memories.)
For me, it relates to everyday life.
The goal of every single hitter is to always make it back home. There are often daily ups and downs, success and adversity. You can fail miserably one day and be the hero the next day. Slumps happen, but you have to let go of the past and look forward, remembering the goal -- and that you're not in this thing by yourself.
It's tradition and memories tied up with box scores and hopefulness, mixed in with stats.
Sure, it's a "pastime." But it's my favorite way to pass that time.