Field of Dreams

“Ty Cobb wanted to play, but none of us could stand the son-of-a-bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it!”
Today I ran across “Field of Dreams” on TMC. It was part of a 31-day “Oscar” movie marathon. As I watched it, I was reminded why this is my favorite baseball movie. The movie is loaded with many good quotes, the score is outstanding, the visual imagery … all of it really speaks to me. If you recall my Vicariously living through the Red Sox column, I wax nostalgia (although not very lyrically or poetically) about my baseball playing days. As I watched this movie, one quote reminded me of this.
Well, you know I… I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn’t. That’s what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases – stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That’s my wish, Ray Kinsella. That’s my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?
It’s really quite funny the stranglehold that baseball has on America. No sport I really believe even comes close, not even football, and I’m very aware football is a massive draw. I think a lot of it has to do with the seasons it is played in. It starts off in April, brand new, just like spring and the year. It is there through the dog days of summer and once the leaves start changing colors, people start thinking playoffs and right when baseball dies for the year, the weather dies into winter. Long, insufferable and interminable waiting marks the passage of winter. While baseball these days is still kept relatively hopping through the winter, there really isn’t much going on when you think about it.
Then the players show up at spring training and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and all of a sud den it’s not so cold anymore. You’re reading and looking at images of sunny Florida/Arizona and baseball’s just around the corner. You go and check to make sure your glove is where you left it in the fall and you think maybe you’ll go buy some fresh new balls to toss with your kid.
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 of us of all that once was good and it could be again.
The end of February is showing that spring training games are about to start, which is actually my least favorite time of spring training/the regular season/playoffs. The initial part of spring training is devoted to working out, getting in shape, training. Here we are still relatively new to sunshine so this is great! And we get to hear all these fluff pieces on spring training reportees and where our players have been over the winter and what they have done.
Then in March (to me anyways) the novelty of spring training has started to erode and the meaningless games start. I certainly still watch the games, but I hate how they’re completely meaningless and devoid of any passion. It most certainly is beneficial for the players, but I don’t like it! By that time I’m ready for April to start and for the games to mean something. I know many people shrug off April happenings. “It’s only April.” Well, the games mean just as much in April as they do in September, and you can see a radical shift from spring training games to April games, a bigger shift than you see from August to September.
On Opening Day we’re going to have to deal with the mass media’s infatuation with Red Sox/Yankees, Schilling/Johnson, Henry/Steinbrenner and all the useless junk that pulls in the ratings. I don’t care who we play Opening Day! I care that we have baseball back. I’ve always thought that the huge rivalry is a complete perpetuation of the media. Sure, the two teams don’t care for each other and fight each other a lot, but the media is the one that makes the big deal out of it. And it certainly is a big deal right now, but what about in 2007 when the Yankees are losing 100 games with a $700 million payroll of decrepit players?
Sometimes the rivalry is fun, sometimes it’s just a pain. There are days I wish we had no rivalry with the Yankees. The media hypes this beyond belief, it truly is overwhelming. ESPN.com has things about the Red Sox and Yankees every day, there’s a Yankee mention in the Globe constantly. Everywhere you go in baseball it’s Red Sox Yankees Red Sox Yankees Red Sox Yankees. Sure, it’s great, but there are 28 other teams in baseball that want a playoff spot, too, and to deny them some press time just so you can rush out the 100th article on the Red Sox and Yankees of the day seems kind of wrong. And this A-Rod running his mouth and media crush on making the Red Sox look like the bad guys in all of this was thankfully exposed by Murray Chass (free registration, read it!) but it just gets old.
The point in this rambling is that I don’t think it’s that big a deal that it’s Red Sox/Yankees on Opening Day. Is it going to be a good game with excitement? Sure, but I’m more happy that it signifies that baseball is back. Who knows what could happen this year? Perhaps the Orioles, led by a rejuvenated pitching staff (fourth best in the AL after the All-Star break) and their potent offense will crack the playoffs. Perhaps the Yankees will finally hit the wall. Perhaps the Red Sox will be plagued by injuries. Perhaps the ridiculous signings by the Diamondbacks that we all scorn will pay off with a playoff berth. It’s a new season and anything is possible.
I’d wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet… The thrill of the grass.