Growing up in the northeast, spring was the most anticipated season of all. After four months of being captive inside due to bitter winter cold, there was finally the promise of warmer, longer days ahead. For most, that meant the first signs of green plants and flowers emerging from the winter snow pack. For me, Spring meant being at my father's side as baseball season got underway.
You see, my late father was a factory worker who had a big heart for children. Dad started every youth sports program in my tiny New Jersey hometown. One of them was Little League. I remember packed registration night in the high school gymnasium. Countless games being the only female sitting in the dugout with Dad and his team. And Dad making sure I took batting and catching practice along with my older brother before Title 9 came along.
Those memories came rushing back this week during a screening of Clint Eastwood's latest movie "Trouble With the Curve." Clint's character Gus is a widower and longtime scout for the Atlanta Braves who also has his daughter at his side, teaching her the ropes. But in a common theme in Eastwood movies, he's estranged from his daughter.
"Curve" is classic Clint. He curses. He's rude, sneers and still has the Clint squint. But for me, I never get tired of seeing his latest narration on a common thread in his acting movies. Critics may say we've seen this plot before, and we have a bit in "Million Dollar Baby," but I can't help but look forward to seeing Eastwood's latest version of tortured man seeking redemption within his family.
In "Curve," the 82-year-old scout's job is in jeopardy. In the movie, Clint's character relies on instinct in picking the next talented player. But back at the front office, the new hot shot young team executive is all about stats and computer modules that size up a player by numbers rather than impressions from a grizzled vet sitting on a well-worn splintered, wooden bleacher of a small town minor league ballpark.
I can relate. After 25 years in the news business, I can size up a potential hire within five minutes. My boss gets mad at me because I've walked out on interviews when I sensed this person is not fit for the job. That's the same instinct Clint's character has. He can tell by a player's grip of a bat or the impact sound of the catcher's glove if a prospect has potential.
"Trouble With the Curve" is a bit slow going at first -- just like a real life baseball game. As any baseball fan knows, we can sit through seven long, drawn out innings without a run being scored by either side. Yet we stay. Sometimes for extra innings.
"Curve" made me remember how much I love baseball. Every nuance of it. From when I kept score for my high school team to my small New Jersey town winning state in Little League to spending a weekend chatting with Reggie Jackson on the field during the New York Yankees spring training camp in Florida. And biting my nails as my younger daughter pitched in girls' softball.
The ending may be predictable but I think we all can use this ending right now. From threatening terror in the Middle East to technology taking over our lives, "Trouble With the Curve" reminds us of a simple, classic time for a father and child to bond, share and enjoy the sport that is our heritage.
I left the movie theater with a big smile on my face. Thank you, Dad, for taking the time to show me the beauty of the game.
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