The day has come. From the Song of Solomon and the famous Ernie Harwell, the gone but not forgotten forty-two year voice of the Detroit Tigers, who began the first broadcast of every new baseball season with this quote:
For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the Earth; The time of singing of birds has come, And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
Some would say the turtle is an apt analogy for a sport that seems to move with a slow and silent pace, yet Ernie saw it and and others of us see it as the beginning of the new ballet of catches made, pitches missed, umpire's calls gone wrong and the splendor of a relaxing warm summer day in the green expanse of a stadium watching eighteen men move in unison with each pitch. In Arizona and Florida today the 2013 season began with all teams playing the first of thirty-six exhibition games.The stars have all reported, the rosters are being sorted out. The "has been" is back hoping to play a little boys game at the age of forty for just one more year. The "wanna be" is working as hard as he knows how from now until the last day in March, hoping this will be the year he will make it to The Show. Some teams desperately invite anyone who appears to have any talent for the thing to see if a cheaply purchased jewel can be found to help them win. Others are filled with the smugness having held last year's roster together hoping that this is the year that the "chemistry" comes to them, and the togetherness will find them a cohesive unit who will still be together and playing for the brass ring as the San Francisco Giants and Ernie's beloved Tigers did last October. It is a long grind, this thing they call a "season." It now spans not only summer but spring and fall as well but it has begun. In these few weeks in "camp" in Arizona or in Florida the players will be evaluated and tested, they will sharpen skills already acquired and acquire others yet perfected. They will find that place to better see the ball in the batters box, learn how to make that throw going to their left as well as they already can going to their right, move a foot on the pitcher's mound a few inches left or right before they throw and find a pitch neither they nor the rest of the league ever knew they had.This is when they dream of having that "breakout" season, when the good become great at this small boys game because they are smart enough to understand it is the preparation that makes the difference between one year as a blazing light or twenty as a star in baseball's firmament on the way to the Hall of Fame. The press and pundits and bloggers everywhere will opine as to who will be good and who will not. Managers will complain of injury and unfairness and revel in the exploits of a few. Part of the world will hang on every pitch and the rest will not care a whit. Those of us who see the game as something pastoral, to be viewed for its beauty in victory and defeat, who care not what may supplement the performance of these men in these strange outfits called "unis:" Three-quarter length pants,wool socks, shirts with the name of cities or nicknames emblazoned on them, and billed caps as well as the strangely constructed leather glove attached to one hand. Those of us who do not care what these men may add to their diet will see it for what it is, an enjoyment, a diversion either from our own hum drum existence or the insanity that life itself has become. We will revel in it as we would a good book, a good movie, a day at the beach. We will root for these boys of spring trying to become the boys of summer who may then win enough games to become the heroes of the fall. Of the thousands that come every year, only 940 men and boys will stand on the foul lines of twenty six big league ball parks, hats over their hearts and hear the National Anthem on that first April afternoon. The thoughts of these few and proud will be as many and diverse as those that hear today, as they begin, the voice of the turtle on the land.
The winter has taken its toll even on those of us living in paradise. A series of unexpected events and a new book (yes, Reamus always seems to be writing a new book ) has kept me from doing anything in this space. I still stalk the blogs and enjoy reading as many as I can. You may note that I have had to add moderation and bar anonymous posts. I have been hit by a growing number of bogus bloggers and websites that do not seem to be as they appear. Wish we could all just get along. Meanwhile, "Truck Day" has occurred for all major league teams and the first players will report today. My annual pilgrimage will occur in late March this year. I am looking forward to the rites of spring, ignoring all comments about drug use and I will try enjoy the game I have loved all these years for what it is:Grown men playing with sticks and balls they should have put down when they reached their twenties. If they enhance their performances somehow, that's their problem and will have to deal with it if they ever grow up. As always it will be fun to watch the very good, the good enough and the ones headed for obscurity under the warm Arizona sun.