Innocence

Afternoons spent at the ballpark can offer a sense of relief from some of life’s real problems


 

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. I’ve had a few weeks with some personal challenges. Tasks, events, relationships have been a tad rugged. We loathe whiners so no need to get into the messy details. But suffice to say it has been a time when I needed to fall back on my go-to diversion. Sports.

 

We all have our reasons to follow the games. For me, at the core, it is simply a love of competition, effort and the drama of a well played game. Of course I enjoy wagering on the outcome but that often is secondary. My rough stretch has certainly included handicapping like a slug so I’ve had to keep that from interfering with the joy of sport. Not always easy but usually doable. However lately, athletics has not been my tried and true prop to settle things down.

 

Perhaps my mood has impacted on my reaction to the happenings in the world of sport. But the trappings of the games just seem somewhat negative lately. We’ve got steroids and punishments reeking up baseball again. Half the CFL teams are in utter turmoil with vitriolic fans wanting heads to roll in the coaching and player ranks. If you ever want to get into a depressive state try visiting the various fan forums in Winnipeg, Montreal, Hamilton and Edmonton. Some hateful stuff at times. Golfers were lined up to the complaint department at the British Open. Too hard, unfair, too fast, too slow, too hot. NFL camps opened with complaints that the new collective agreement does not allow enough contact for proper evaluation. Evidently it’s a big story that Dallas QB Tony Romo is fat apparently. Really? We are reminded that the rates of felony charges in the NFL are surprisingly high. Yup, they are.

 

Professional sports are so big we have 24/7 coverage. The avalanche of news, opinions and rage seemed to take its toll on me this past while. I needed a refresher. A break from the bloat. So I shut things down and headed to a small park, in the sun, to watch the lowest level of minor league professional baseball. No phones. No computers. No bets. Mantracker looking to find some of that lost innocence.

 

We got to the pristine little diamond early enough to grab some park food. The kind of stuff you generally don’t go out of your way for. Hot dog, fries, lemonade slushy. Arguably the best lunch I’ve had in a good long while. Settled into the metal bench seat along third base and let the sun in. The infield was raked just so, and the anthem sung by a very nervous local. It was perfect. Then out they came. The kids with a dream. They’ve landed here, from all parts of the world, trying to impress somebody. That special observer who’ll take enough notice to help them move up the long ladder of minor league ball. Playing for peanuts and billeted in basements for the few months they are in town. Not yet men. Tweeners.

 

Baseball allows us to breathe. To converse. To laugh and catch up. This particular game also allowed us to see the simplicity of sports. Without the hype and egos. To see young players strive to excel without the whole world watching. It’s not yet “just win baby” but “just play.” And the healthy crowd gets it. Fully participating in the hokey traditions of baseball. The seventh inning stretch. Singing along to silly songs in between innings. Applauding talent, respectfully observing the errors and thoroughly enjoying themselves and the event. The final score was an afterthought for most. Four hours of sunny fun for a few shekels. A small price to pay for a refresher in innocence.