Thursday, September 13, 2007

Season of Dreams!

For every kid who joined up for little league, there were so many firsts that became lasting memories for life.
  • The first uniform shirt, the smell of the printed name on it, a smell that never leaves you.
  • Fighting over your favorite major league player's number. (Of course, it depended on your size because the shirt sizes were numbered low to high.)
  • The first time you are out in the field, the grass is so green and the sky is so blue. You’ve seen the grass and the sky before but on this day, your senses are enveloped by them. Then it happens…the crack of the bat, the infielders turning your way and looking up, you squint to find a little white dot in the big, blue sky, you clumsily and timidly position yourself in the vicinity of where the ball might come down, you raise your glove, your mother screams, and the ball somehow tucks itself firmly into the glove pocket! You have practiced this hundreds of times but this time, it’s for real. are a fielder with confidence!
  • The first time you step to the plate. Yes, you’ve taken batting practice and played with the neighborhood kids so many times before. But this time, it’s real, it means something to so many. You measure your bat to the plate, line your feet on a line to the pitcher, to shake off the nerves, you begin to imitate your favorite major league player. You squeeze the bat handle as you slide your hands up on the bat, you bring the bat even with your back shoulder just like your coach taught you and now you are ready…in comes the pitch and you watch a called strike one. Then you do it all again, then again. This time, they got you, but that’s O.K., there are plenty of hits to come. From now on, you can wait on deck and size-up how you will hit the opposing pitcher. You are playing baseball!

This is the same love affair that generations after generations of kids have experienced and learned that this grand old game would forever be a part of them.
If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a major league city, you kept the game even closer, especially if your team ever got into a pennant race. The best summer of your life was more than likely driven by your team in first place.
You grew up and had less and less free time, but there was always time to play on a softball team or two. Through it all, there is that major league team that you live and die with.
You have children and you get to live it all over again; the uniforms, the parades, and the passion and drama of the game.
But kids grow up and move on to lives of their own.
You still have your major league team. They even get into a couple of World Series!
That same team offers a Fantasy Camp, a chance to play at your team’s Spring Training facilities. But you are fifty-one years old at the time, can you really compete and in hardball?
You go and the experience is first class. The players you worshiped as a teen and young adult are your coaches.
It starts all over again! The uniforms (this time, you get to choose your number!), the big fields, the big Florida sky, it all comes rushing back because for a week you are a kid again!

  • Try-outs, a draft, then meeting your team, what a huge rush!
  • Playing two games a day and drinking with Joe Charboneau each night.
  • Listening to Luis Tiant tell you stories you will cherish for the rest of your life.
  • Playing on a spring training major league field.
  • Being named the MVP of one of the games.
  • Having opposing manager Len Barker give you the “thumbs up” on three straight dig-outs at first base.
  • Batting in a "players vs. campers" game against legendary hall of famer Bob Feller!
  • Playing in a reunion game at the "Jake" 4 months later.

Now your team is approaching the playoffs. Does life get any better than this?

Who could ever forget James Earl Jones' speech (as Terrence Mann) in Field of Dreams,

"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. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

...Gotta get to the "Jake" and relive it again and again, and again...

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