By Brian Thomas
Every person is destined to find true love. It happens to every one once. However it is still the most rare of all discoveries. The main reason for this is because people aren't watching. Or are not ready, and this love walks away with out ever being noticed. I have searched for my true love since the day I could walk. Today my heart is filled with joy at the discovery of this love. Many people look for love in another person, and always seem to be disappointed when they are let down. They look for it in youth, in laughter, in partying. I found mine in a place over looked many times. I have now taken it upon myself to bring others back to this place. I found love in a game.
On January 1st of every year I begin marking my calendar. April 1st gets marked first. This isn't my birthday, or my anniversary. I don't begin planning pranks for April Fool's Day. On that day every year I take off work, for a "religious holiday", and watch all the things I have missed since the previous October. On that day it seems that the sun shines a little brighter, and the angels sing so enthusiastically that we can almost hear them. As the sun rises above the horizon glistening off the morning dew, my heart leaps in my chest. The smell of freshly cut grass, hotdogs, and oiled leather join together, to give us all a little scent of heaven. Nothing is more "religious" than this. This is opening day. As the ump pulls down his mask and shouts, "play ball", my heart is reminiscent of my childhood. Those words bring joy to me in the same way as my dad waking me up with the words "Santa came last night". My heart is cheerful and I almost can't control my smile, as the little kid is reborn in me every year on this day. I love April 1st. I mark other days as well. I do my best to remember my Mom's birthday, or my girlfriend's. I do all I can do to remember Easter and Christmas, but opening day is always first on my list.
I also mark the All-Star game, when the best of the best get together and enjoy the one thing that everyone loves, baseball. I mark August 1st, because that is the trade deadline. This day marks the day that play-off race is clearly defined. Who is in, who is out, and who has completely given up. I have the distinct privilege of being a New York Yankees fan, and although I remember the days when we were out of the playoff races I choose not to talk about them. Oct. 1st marks the beginning of the playoffs, and for the next four weeks my phone is turned off, I do not reply to emails, and I do not go out to eat. I just watch baseball. October is bittersweet for me. On one hand it is the game I love in the spotlight. The best teams in baseball fighting it out to win the World Series. On the other hand, there are only four more weeks of baseball season and then I must suffer through five months without it.
See to me, baseball is the game that has stood the test of time. With advancement in technology and changes in interest, many people didn't think it would survive the turn of the century. No... not the 21st, but the 20th. People were falling on hard times in that day and the average salary was only about 550 dollars a year. People couldn't afford to take their families to go and watch the games. Much less fund the pay and travel expenses for these startup teams. Then came World War I and the great depression. People stood in line for hours for gas that they could barely afford. Once again the question was raised "how can people afford to go to these games?" Yet baseball survived, even thrived. World War II came and most of baseball's top stars were called to duty. The most famous was Ted Williams who was still in his prime. Yet baseball lived, and provided an escape for people while their families fought a deadly war over seas. It has made it through recessions and depressions. It has survived wars and the change in times. In my mind baseball is almost immortal. When you think it has been beaten it rises to the top to prove once again that it always has been, and will forever be America's pastime.
One of the true tests of baseball was 9/11/01. The sport fell under criticism for stopping the games, as well as criticism for starting back too early. I even had my questions. Should they call the season? We have been through the most tragic event in our nations history, and we are going to play baseball? That night I turned the TV on, naturally it steered its way to the game, and the moment I saw that field, that stadium, and those American flags, all I could think was "Let's play ball". The game was in St. Louis, and their legendary broadcaster, Jack Buck, gave a speech. His voice was shaky from almost fifty years of calling the game that he loved. His eyes were teary from a week of pain and heartache, and he, even if for one moment, was America's band-aid. I began to weep, and it continued until the seventh inning when Ray Charles sang "America, the Beautiful". I was in my house with my girlfriend, and for no reason I rose from my seat saluted the flag, and sang along. In no way did I forget the tragedy of Sept. 11th, but for one brief moment the world revolved around St. Louis. Later that year, during the World Series, against what many people thought was a security risk; President George Bush answered the call to throw the first pitch. Now any self-respecting baseball fans boos a person who bounces the first pitch, but this was my President. The man elected to lead us into the war on Terrorism. How could I boo him? The question was quickly answered when my President stood at the mound in Yankee Stadium, and through a perfect strike to the catcher. The stadium erupted as well as sports enthusiasts all over the world. As our President smiled, waved, and walked off the field, in a manner that could only say "we will prevail".
See baseball is more than just a game. It is a memory, it is a hope, and it is a dream. For every great ball player in today's game, I can name ten in history that were as good. For every player in the Hall I can hope that one player today will break his records. For every little boy in the world there is a dream about pitching in the World Series, or hitting a game winning homerun. Baseball is a sport that I can name Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and then toss in Albert Pujols. I can name Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, and hope that one day Alex Rodriguez will be in that list. Baseball is about more than the dollar signs. It is about more than who wins or who loses. It is a part of American History. In what other sport can you blame 90 years or losing on a guy who has been dead for decades? Yet the "curse of the Bambino" is considered fact in baseball circles. So much so that the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts have tried to pass laws to relocate the grave of Babe Ruth, and to bring his baby grand piano up from the bottom of the river, from which Red Sox fans threw in shortly after his trade to New York. Baseball has a way of creeping into America's every thought and action. It is part of life as we know it.
A heart is a strange thing. There is a hole in each heart that we spend a lifetime trying to fill. The majority of people never fill this hole, and tries countless things to ease the pain. I have finally filled mine. The hole in my heart is two and half inches in diameter, and gets filled every spring. Is it time you come back to the diamond? Is it time you get your heart filled? Baseball is the greatest love of all, and my heart is completely filled each time I hear those three little words. "Let's play ball."
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