I am living through a rough patch of my life: my business is moribund and my patience with all things political and financial is wearing quite thin. And yet as I write this, I am filled with so much excitement that only sub-freezing temperatures and piles of snow are keeping me from bolting onto my front lawn to yell: "YIPEE!"
My pleasure is palpable because baseball is starting sooner than later. Pitchers and catchers are reporting this week, and as I don't have any viable economic prospects on my desk, I have plenty of time to muse about the minor leaguers who may become big league prospects.
For most baseball fans, January 1st is meaningless: our calendars commence in late February, when October's refrains of "wait until next year" may come true. Puxsawtaney Phil's heralding of spring can't compare to our sure-fire predictors of spring: the sounds of bats cracking, gloves whumping, crowds cheering and vendors hawking.
Sure, some fans look upon spring training with disdain, preferring to wait for the regular season before unleashing their enthusiasm. One bonafide baseball fan described pre-season games as "non-alcoholic beer", but hey, if you're feeling parched in the midst of a drought, a beer without buzz is still a welcome beverage. And I am one thirsty, thirsty baseball addict in need of a pick-me-up!
I am an unabashed NY Mets' fan. I root for the laundry and I root for the players. Since 1963, owners and management have taken my loyalty for granted and pocketed my money even as they demolished my ballpark, traded away my favorites and attempted to undermine my self-respect. But none of that truly deters me, because I'm in love with baseball. My adoration remains unbounded for the guys who don the jerseys and leave everything out on the field. Though I am a fan of other sports, for me, baseball is a magical game played without a clock that sets the tempo of my life for two-thirds of the year.
I get to watch a theatrical event unfold 162 times (or more) per year. I know all the characters and possible storylines, yet the script won't be written until the show ends. From March through October, the rhythm of my life is set, with curtains rising at 7 PM most weekdays, and matinees on weekends. If I'm lucky, each play will develop towards a wildly exciting conclusion and be thoroughly entertaining. If I'm unlucky, the curtain goes down as I slap my palm against my forehead, muttering various compound cuss words. On those "off" days when the theater is dark, I am lost and restless, calmed only by the mindless jabber of sports talk radio.
At its core, baseball is supposed to be fun, and in a life where things aren't exactly working out as planned, I'm getting revved up for the fun to start. In training camp, the 2010 Mets have yet to lose a game, and even when the games begin in earnest, the Mets will have approximately 1,500 innings of fresh starts over the course of the season. In these tough times, I am grateful to have baseball to distract me from my cares and woes. I've always been there for the NY Mets, and at long last, they'll be able to reciprocate: it will be therapeutic to join with multitudes of other die-hard fans, rooting for the team we love as they are handed nine new opportunities to succeed each and every game.