What is baseball for me? It is poetry. It is symmetry. It is continuity. It is love. It is family. And it is coming home.
I became most aware of these thoughts when I made my first trip to Boston’s Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play on May 19, 2008. It was a joy for me to return to New England, where I had made my home when I was studying in graduate school in the 1990s.
Immediately before the game, after the singing of the U.S. National Anthem, the announcer asked a child to say “those two words we all love”: “Play ball!” Then, on that night, young Jon Lester of the Red Sox pitched a complete-game no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals! In his white uniform with a long-sleeved red shirt underneath the jersey, Jon Lester was pure electricity! Naturally, Lester brought to mind other famous lefthanders who pitched no-hitters: Sandy Koufax and Mel Parnell. When I witnessed this event in Fenway Park, where the shadows have been flirting with the girders and poles today and forever since 1912, I realized how this ballpark has been a major part of history and a type of home at the same time.
When the sky got darker near the end of the game, a milk-and-silver moon climbed above right field. It was a full moon again, just like on that historic night in St. Louis in 2004, when my beloved Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. I could not ask for more.
After the game, a river of people in Red Sox shirts and hats poured out of the park and swelled all the way to the Kenmore subway station. It felt like my parents’ lives. My parents used to watch the baseball games on TVs in stores when they did not have a TV at home, and they used to go out to ball games on public transportation. Then and now, everyone was safe because everyone had enjoyed the same game experience almost as a family and was wishing to continue enjoying it.
As I go onward, I have to know that this game will continue to exist. In this country, we have so many things that keep churning and mutating, many not for better. I am upset with the value-of-the-week and value-of-the-month approach that governs work and life in the United States. I never know what will be praised today and shunned tomorrow, which ideas are valued, which ones are treated like trash, and why. Baseball at least to some extent provides a living forum for values that must not change–home, brotherhood, and love. At the ballpark, I can touch both history and the future. Furthermore, I know that everything that is really worthwhile and beautiful will continue to have a home as long as we can still say, “Play ball!”
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