My life finally feels complete. For the first time in months, a void has been filled and, thankfully, I can sleep better at night. The magic of baseball has returned and faded my winter stupor away. As a history teacher in high school once told me, the World Series is one of the saddest things in the world. After it ends, there are five long months until my salvation finally arrives: Opening Day. This is not an article about which team will win the World Series (Tigers?) or who has the best changeup in the game (Johan Santana?). Well, maybe just a little bit. But it’s first and foremost about passion. There are few things in the world more intense, strategic or beautiful as the game developed during the Civil War era.
It has been a love-hate relationship for me for many years. If you are from Baltimore, like me, you are forced down that same path. The glory of the Orioles from the 1970s has faded away into the pocketbook of the team’s current owner, Peter Angelos.
As a boy, my reality was framed by my parents’ experiences as expatriated fans of the Reggie-Jackson Yankees. For many years, the game could not do for me what it did for my parents, who were casual fans by that point in their lives. This led to sleep-filled seventh-inning stretches, which typically forced my mom to take me home from the stadium early, to the chagrin of my brother.
What happened next I can’t really explain. Baseball turned from a boring game between old men whom I didn’t even know to an obsession, and I was captured by the world of statistics that would make any normal person’s head explode. The competition between New York and Boston leaves me in the dust at UR, which is a sad reality. I really don’t care how the Yankees are going to overtake the Red Sox this year – I’m really just hoping the O’s can stay out of last place.
Well, maybe I do care, at least a little, and since I’ve brought that topic up, I need to divulge a bit about the game that I’ve loved so dearly. The AL East is all that people care about, at least around our campus. As always, it will be the Yankees and Red Sox vying for first, as they have more money and more talent and consistently pursue remedies for what ails them. I can’t deny Boston’s pitching, and that alone should bring them ahead, especially considering the combination of fragility and inexperience in the Yankees’ rotation. Perhaps the most interesting story will be the ascension of the Rays. The young talent that they have accumulated for a decade should make them push for second place in the division.
For some inexplicable reason, I’m now a huge Giants fan – I can only wonder what may have changed this off-season. Maybe it is the beauty of the torturous windup of Tim Lincecum or Aaron Rowand’s tenacity in centerfield, or it could be the exodus of Barry Bonds, just maybe. Anyway, I like them as a fun bunch of young and old, but they’re still going to be dreadful.
Last but not least, the guys who make this game fun – the rookies. These are the guys who play the hardest and finally are experiencing the dream we all have. Boston’s Clay Buchholz proved his amazing capacity (especially against my Orioles) in his call-up last year. Joba Chamberlain recorded a 0.38 ERA to help save the Yankees last year. Joey Votto, for the Reds, may break out in a big way after hitting 26 home-runs between AAA and his call-up with Cincinnati last year. And don’t forget those rookies – who are not quite so new to the game – like Kosuke Fukudome, who has already made his impact at Wrigley Field by homering in his first game for the Cubs.
The beauty of the game can’t be described in numbers alone, nor in the history enshrined in Cooperstown. Graceful gyrations lead to thunderous cracks of the bat – the chess match played between the pitcher and the hitter is inexplicable through mere words on a page. It is also important to recognize the achievements of college baseball, as exemplified by UR’s baseball team. And while the amateurs have their place, the professionals will capture our imagination as the summer draws closer, just as they always do.
Wasserman is a member of the class of 2010.