I often dream about baseball.
With the dreaded off-season here again, which slowly crept to the present like a runner who takes his slight movements off of first base, I find once again that a small part of me has died, not to be resurrected until the following spring.
It is a paradox; we long for the fall and for the contentions among teams to rise, for the post-season to approach, for tensions become so great we find our lives wrapped so far around the rivalries and the aura of baseball we have to brush it off of our shoulders. And yet, we also wish for the season to never end, so there wouldn’t be a day without our beloved game.
Baseball breaks your heart. But, as A. Bartlett Giamatti said, it was designed to break your heart. Inherently, it is a game of failure. Twenty-nine factions and their fan constituents will inevitably be denied true satisfaction of success of a championship. At least half cannot even claim to have had a winning season.
Think of the failure of a hitter: a batter will come to the plate hundreds of times in one season. A very successful batter may succeed at the plate less than a third of the time. A vast majority of appearances will result in failure. And yet, the hitting king will only successfully reach base on a hit well under half the time.
The game of baseball still lives deep in all of our hearts. We are, after all, true fans. We arrive at games early, in time to watch batting and fielding practice, ogling over deep home runs and in our minds, deterred by players who replace excellence with nonchalant movements. Two hands, you shout, silently. You know that it’ll cost that second baseman eventually, if he keeps it up. You casually converse with neighbors, and for a few, quick hours, they are your family.
You keep score for no other reason than you always have, keeping focus to every play and watching the game like you are not just a spectator but an arbiter of truth. Umpires may be human, but even you sitting in the second deck could precisely give an accurate call.
And whether or not the score is close, you remain in your seat, still able to appreciate the right fielder inching his momentum depending on the swing of the bat. You watch a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt, and you relax in your chair, thinking about how much you’re in love with the game. It becomes a part of you, part of your personality and characteristic. It is infallible.
I continue to dream of baseball. I imagine myself, like every other sensible fan, stepping to the plate, tapping the bat on the faint rubber ritualistically, raising it to your right shoulder and peering over your left to the pitcher. He is scared, like a child without an answer praying he’s not called upon by his teacher.
Apprehensively, he raises his leg and fires, and your bat connects with the ball with such perfection that you could see the ball frozen between its forward motion and its potential flight off of the wood. You dig around first base, glancing out towards right-center, and push yourself around second into third, sliding into the bag head-first a second in front of the tag. You reach your arms out and hug the bag, knowing there is no better game or idea than the one of baseball.
I find myself dreaming less and less during the winter months preceding opening game. The frigid winds don’t lend themselves to imagination like the grandeur of the stadium. I, like others I’m sure, wish this wasn’t so, for I demand some kind of recollection or sensation of baseball to keep myself occupied until the upcoming season. And yet, it often becomes difficult.
And thus, I wait, and I wish. I wish for April, for the light of baseball to shine upon my face like golden ropes and fulfill my imagination again. I wish for April, to see the new-found hope for all teams and players, with a clean slate to work from. Many of them will fall to the cellar like their perennial destiny, and others may come to surprise us. Millions of others like myself wait, and continue to long for the spring, where the sun will shine and we may be able to dream again.