I was in the kitchen filling my water bottle this morning after a particularly arduous spin class when I heard something that lightened my heart and lifted my spirits. The TV in the living room played the light-hearted jocularity of two sportscasters schmoozing over a relatively quiet and velvet green diamond of a field full of anticipation. The gentle thwack of bat against ball followed by a slight build in the crowd’s expectancy, and the quickening of the sportscaster’s voice as he called the play, burst into a crescendo as the ball was caught and the crowd clapped and cheered. Spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, has begun.
The other night, leaving campus after rehearsal, I used the Uber app to get a ride home. Jeff picked me up in his white BMW SUV. (Nicest uber ride I’ve had, by the way.) As we chatted on the 5-10 minute ride home, I inquired what he did when he wasn’t Ubering. I’m a Baseball sports agent, he said. He said he represented a few players, a Cardinal, and a few others. As we neared my block, I confessed my Red Sox-by-marriage-affiliation, and learned, not surprisingly, that Jeff was also a Red Sox fan. We shared our enthusiasm about the spring training game that day, the Red Sox’s first win of the season, and he told me he was heading down to Florida next week to see some spring training games. And then, as quick as a chat on FB, Jeff was gone, and I was home.
When we lived on the upper west side of Manhattan in the early 80s, my least favorite time of the year was February, where the streets met the icy curbs via a dirty slushy river of indeterminate depth, one always deeper than the height of the shoes I was wearing. The gray days reflected my moods for about 6 weeks, and only now, with twenty plus years of California living behind me, I know that I had S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
We have something akin to S.A.D. in our house from about November 1st until March 15th. Let’s call it B.A.D., or Baseball Absence Disorder. Things are just a little less cheery, even after clinching the pennant and the World Series (three times in the last ten years, so take that Babe Ruth!) when “our heroes” aren’t at work. That’s what we call them in our house – “our heroes.”
“How did our heroes do today?” is my daily question to Jimmie when I get home after work. We subscribe to the massively expensive MLB plan through Time Warner Cable (Comwarner?) so that we can not only watch our heroes, but also the anti-heroes, the Yankees.
Years ago, Jimmie shared a dressing room with an actor who was a Yankee fan; they were discussing a recent game where a fight had broken out in the dugout and the Yankee pitcher had broken his thumb. Cupping his mouth with his hand to hide his grin, Jimmie said to this actor, “What a shame about that injury – he’s such a good pitcher.” The gesture of course didn’t cover the merriment in his eyes, and a rich tradition of vaguely disguised baseball schadenfreude was born. Jimmie still periodically gives me the DL report about the Yankees – cupping his mouth to hide his grin. Our son, Chris, carries on the tradition even now. We spent a lot of time talking behind our hands about Yankees players A-Rod and Mark Teixeira.
So, it was with a quickening pulse that I heard the sounds of the early days of baseball. I know when we have 130 games behind us sometime in July or August, I will feel less glad, but like daylight savings and spring cleaning, the arrival of baseball season is a harbinger of happy days ahead.
“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” —Rogers Hornsby from the Boston Red Sox Spring Training website