I believe in the power of baseball to span generations and to be a continuing source of pleasure.
I loved baseball from the first time I saw the older boys playing. There were three fields within bicycle-riding distance, where boys met to play baseball in one form or another. There was minimal planning and no parental involvement. When Little League began I was on the Pirates. I wore my black baseball T-shirt and my black baseball cap everywhere possible. I loved the practices, the games, and the baseball talk at school. In hindsight, I am grateful that my father went to as many games and practices as he could.
At an early age I became an avid fan of professional baseball and the players- both our local team and the Big League teams. The central focus of my interest was Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees. This was natural for a boy growing up in Oklahoma in the 1950’s, but I have come to believe that more men my age claim Mantle as their boyhood idol than anyone else. A highlight of the summer was a family trip to Kansas City, where the men and boys would go to Memorial Stadium to see a game. My brother still remembers an incident at a Boston Red Sox game where our uncle directed his attention to someone he said was a special player- it was Ted Williams.
In the 1960’s when my father and I had typical generational differences (politics, music, and religion to name a few), watching a baseball or discussing baseball was a safe haven.
Here are some of the things I loved about playing baseball: having my first set of metal cleats; the feel of the bat making solid contact with a pitch; the even rarer feeling of success when hitting a good curve ball; diving to catch a ball and feeling it, unseen, trapped in my glove. But, most of all, baseball offers the drama of the batter in a one-versus nine confrontation. While failure is the norm, in those moments of success the batter returns home to the welcome of his teammates.
Here are some of the things I love about baseball as a spectator: the smell and taste of pizza sold outside of Fenway Park; coming through the tunnels and covered areas of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field to see the green field in sunlight: watching a game at one of the few remaining fields where Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, or Jackie Robinson played; and going to the upper deck seats where the longest homeruns were hit and looking back to home plate in amazement.
My greatest joy as a spectator was in watching my children practice and play; especially when I was with my father and he was watching his grandchildren.
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