It’s been a long, hard, grueling time these last few months. At times, it seemed as though we’d never make it, like a band of pirates lost at sea and never finding land. At times, it seemed as if this day would never come, like a dramatic scene in a movie where we shove the younger ones ahead saying “save yourself.” But it did come. And now it’s here. And we can look back on those rough days that were filled with shipwrecks and dramatic scenes and football – everything that baseball is not – and know that we’re stronger because of it. I don’t have the chance to make it to the very first game of spring training: the moment we’ve all been waiting for; when the anthem is sung, the sky is blue, the first pitch is pitched and baseball is in the air. No matter; I can imagine, like I always do.
The sun is shining but no matter the weather, it’s perfect. Baseball is back. There’s nothing more that can be asked for. The baseball field is absolutely beautiful, striped with the two most pleasing shades of green and a logo emblazoned behind home plate. The concession stands, like the teams, have been replenished with new additions. The vendors are louder than we remember, selling things that cost more than we remember, dancing in between innings a little better than we remember.
The players look a little different, and not all of them are even there, but everyone’s happy to see them anyway. Actually, they’re just all around happy. It’s Friday and they’re at a baseball field, watching their team. The long and horrible offseason is over. Baseball is back. The beat writers are contented, the announcers are rejoicing, and everything is as it should be.
The coaches and players are chomping on Dubble Bubble and spitting sunflower seeds in only a way they can. And there’s this one really annoying (and ever so slightly intoxicated) guy seated behind some nice people who yells some form of motivation to the team once every 9.36 seconds. It wouldn’t be so bad if he actually pronounced some of the players’ names right. Thankfully he gets up and leaves after the fourth to steal a seat that’s closer, possibly getting thrown out in the process.
The seventh inning stretch comes and everyone stands just as proudly as they did when the National Anthem was sung, only more people join in the singing, swaying to and fro.
And when the game ends and it’s time for the good people to all go home, nobody wants to. They all linger just a little bit longer, taking in the moment, savoring it, not wanting it to be over. The players have all left the field, the grounds crew is already hard at work, and the ushers are picking up the empty beer cans and sweeping away peanut shells. For now, it seems like it’s all over and walking back through the gates is the hardest part. Everyone’s so eager to shorten the game, and yet, every time they end, it seems as though they were never long enough.
The last of the fans leave reluctantly, getting to their cars and driving away. It seems a little heartbreaking, but it’s ok: they’ll be back. This is only the beginning. There are plenty more shutout innings to be pitched, walk-off homers to be witnessed, and $7 cotton candy to be eaten. Today was just the warmup, the free trial, a sneak preview of what’s to come, a saving grace to all those who dearly missed baseball. For some of us, it was just what we needed.
But then again, this is only how I imagined it.