September 19, 2008

Take Me Out With the Crowd

Few would argue that the Washington Nationals are a really bad baseball team. As of today, they are tied with the San Diego Padres for the worst record in the National League. (The Seattle Mariners are one game worse.) They are both 58-95. But none-the-less, I will be out at Nationals Park tonight enjoying fall weather, along with Emily and her parents and sister. And guess who the Nats are playing. That's right, the Holy Fathers from the City of St. James. At the end of the night, one of these two teams will be in sole possession of the National League cellar. Here's hoping it's not the hometown team.

There is something pretty amazing about baseball. It's just about the slowest paced team sport there is. (I mean really, is golf a sport or a hobby?) The action comes in spurts, and you can usually anticipate that it's about to happen. Yet, America loves baseball. Kids of all ages play all across the country. We have Major League teams in big cities, and Minor League teams in towns of all sizes. One of the best things I did this summer was take my father to a Tennessee Smokies game for Father's Day. We sat two rows behind home plate. We could hear the conversations between the catchers, the batters and the home plate umpire. It was awesome. And we have more movies about baseball than (I think) any other sport. James Earl Jones' soliloquy in Field of Dreams always gives me chills.

Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. 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.

So, win or lose, I'll be at Nationals Park tonight, having an adult beverage and a food item that is totally un-healthy, enjoying the one constant through the years, and yelling "swingbatterbatter, swingbatterbatter, sa-wing battah!" (just like Ferris & Cameron).

Go Nats!

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