Baseball – Something good happened in Erie, 7/24/2020

When times are hard, I often find my mind racing, entertaining way too many thoughts and scenarios all ending in some type of disaster. What helps me is to take a deep breath and slow everything down. Even if just for a minute. Deep breath.

There, that’s better. Life isn’t so hard, at least not by itself. We make it hard. People make it hard. When you consider that pretty much everyone you know has everything they need to survive but half of them are unhappy because of the expectations we all put on ourselves, the problem comes into focus. Maybe the solution is just less.

Toward the beginning of the pandemic, I was hopeful that staying home indefinitely could provide some kind of “get back to nature” zen in my life. It hasn’t happened. When you have the three little kids that I have, too many moments of zen are traded for “Tazmanian devil lighting fireworks in a trash can at an AC/DC concert” kind of moments.

Finding things to do for my little guys got tougher this summer when little league was canceled. I understand that they didn’t have much of a choice. Still, there’s one more structured activity my son misses out on, and one blissful summer on the baseball diamond stolen from his childhood. There aren’t enough of those summers in a childhood to begin with, if you ask me. Every time I think about that, it hurts.

Baseball was my life growing up, and has maintained a steadily diminishing presence since then. I’m a Pirates fan, which I know will elicit pity from many of you, so the thrill of Opening Day quickly fades for me into months of lukewarm fandom. After so many years of losing, Pirates baseball became the comforting background noise of my life – the thing I noticed less and took for granted more all the time.

Now that it’s been gone, I find myself missing it more and more. As the whole damn world descends ever further into madness, baseball can be the thing you turn on to get your bearings because baseball hasn’t changed in 100 years. It’s just as slow and stubborn and pure as it ever was. Step out of the batter’s box, slow your mind down, run through the signals again. Deep breath.

That’s the main reason I’m excited that baseball started up yesterday. I know the Pirates have no chance in contending in even this virus-shortened and playoff-expanded season. I do not care. The chance to watch my guys on the screen every night, striving and hustling and coming up short while my house full of hooligans recharge their batteries is something I will no longer take for granted.

The whole situation has me thinking of a scene from my favorite movie, Field of Dreams, where a kidnapped former hippee convinces a small-town Iowa farmer to chase the idealism of his childhood in what is for my money the purest, most comforting quote in movie history:

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again. Oh…people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

James Earl Jones as “Terrance Mann,” Field of Dreams.

I’m going to soak up some baseball while I can and let it remind me of all that once was good, and could be again. I’ll let it take me back to the days when those pitiful, losing Pirates were my heroes and nothing else mattered. Whatever is stressing you out this year, I hope you find your baseball to help you through. Remember, we will get to the other side. Deep breath.

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