Former Major League Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote about America’s pastime:
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
There is a beauty and simplicity to the game of baseball: The team that hits the little white ball with the stick more often than the other team usually wins. Or conversely, the team whose pitcher makes opposing batters miss more often will typically come out victorious.
No tied games, and we rely on a couple of arbiters to decide strikes and balls or if someone is safe or out.
And now the season comes to a crescendo called the playoffs: day games followed by a night game where the players can see their breath and the crisp air has a difficult time holding towering hits in the ballpark.
So October is my month and exemplifies why I love this game. It’s a reminder – at least to me – of days spent with a Wiffle ball and bat in Billy Groffy’s backyard. Me the 1984 Cubs, he and Jason Brown the Atlanta Braves – the two teams we were able to watch on television. We imagined ourselves as our idols: Leon Durham, Rick Suttcliffe, Dale Murphy and Pascual Perez.
I lived for the Cubs. I still live for the Cubs.
Five years later, same game, different yard. Chris Miller and I were Mark Grace and Greg Maddux, Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg. Every day during the summer, we ate, slept and breathed baseball.
Twenty-five years later, I try to watch the game with my son, Asher. He and I are Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez. We watch baseball in October now not only because it’s the Cubs, but we watch how a pitcher releases the ball, how the batters rotate their hips and throw their hands through the zone. We watch how infielders set their feet and how every player moves on every pitch. Perhaps it’s not as simple as we initially see.
Tuesday night, the Colorado Rockies (a team I also love to watch) broke my heart as they beat the Cubs in a one-game playoff. I tip my (Cubs) hat to them – and fortunately still have an excuse to call in sick or sit in front of the television on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Baseball will always give me a chance to watch a faster moving game of chess, to recite stats and complain and drink copious amounts of beer. And it gives me an opportunity to forget about all the noise that never stops ringing.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.Darrin Parmenter