In the 1989 movie Field Of Dreams, James Earl Jones character Terrence Mann says:
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has
rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard,
rebuilt and erased again.
"But baseball has marked the time. This field, this
game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good
and it could be again."
Baseball has marked the time. That statement seems to grow more and more profound the older I get. For every April I awake like the six-year-old version of myself. I am energetic and eager, silly and proud, hopeful and naive.
With every new season there is a new hope. Reasons to believe that this will be our year. Those who don't understand will call it optimism. Those of us who feel it know that it is so much more.
I was five years old the first time I went to a baseball game. I'll never forget walking through the turnstiles at Wrigley Field into the dark yet deliciously smelling lower concourse.
I was with a large group of people including my Father and Brothers who spent nearly the entire first hour in line for food and drink in dingy halls of this neighborhood lounge. I remember stepping is sticky soda, my Dad spilling beer all over himself and more cursing than I had heard outside of the Porkey's movie my Brother let me watch.
I suppose at that time I was scared and maybe a little upset but then something happened that changed not only that experience but my life forever. My Brother led me to a crowded staircase where beams of light shot out around the huddled masses.
He said, "do you want to see the field?" to which I shook my head and went up the stairs. When I got to the top my eyes were forced to squint at the amazing spectrum of light resonating from the sunlit sky. I could not believe the colors pouring into my eyeballs.
It looked like a painting or some sort of candy store straight from the mind of Willie Wonka.
The sky was like a giant stick of blue cotton candy. The bases were like marshmallows sitting on an infield of sweet brown sugar. The outfield grass....there aren't any words to describe how green that grass was to my budding five-year-old eye.
All I can remember is that I wanted to be on that grass. I wanted to slide on it, catch pop-flies on it, I wanted to lie down in it and make angels. At that moment, baseball hooked me and reeled me in.
I don't remember what else happened that day. They say I was so scared of my upper deck seat that I sat on the concrete step out in the aisle all afternoon. All I know is that I couldn't take my eyes off of all of the color and life out on that field and I haven't much since.
Every opening day since to me is a walk up those stairs. Living in Chicago our winters are always cold, dark and drab. Then, like out of nowhere a new wind emerges bringing warm air, vibrant color and the hope of a new season.
Growing up in the '80's in Chicago meant a lot of high hopes, crushed dreams and terrible baseball. The White Sox were so close in '83. The Cubs even closer in '84. I am a White Sox fan though unlike many Sox fans I do not hate the Cubs. In fact, I find myself cheering more and more for them every year.
I love this game too much to root against any team more than I root for my own. In 2005, my dream came true as I was able to watch the White Sox roll through the postseason and win the first World Series in Chicago since 1917.
I took my Brother to Game One of the Series as well as my nephew and a couple of my best friends. Walking into the stadium that night I felt oddly just like I did when I was five, scared and unsure.
Before game four of the series I decided I would drive downstate and watch the game with my Mom, the biggest White Sox fan on the planet. Growing up she often told me about the go-go Sox and her all-time favorite player Nellie Fox.
She explained the overwhelming joy followed by crushing pain she felt in 1959 when the Sox lost to the Dodgers four games to two.
My Mother and I suffered through the defeats of '83, '93, the strike of '94 that would have been our year and then again in 2000. When the final out of the 2005 World Series was made my Mother and I cried the most euphoric tears of our lives.
A lifetime of pain, of hopes and dreams being crushed over and over again was finally made right. We had lost my Father just a few years before and this moment was something our family needed very much. Baseball had marked the time.
So it is with every opening day since that I wish for that feeling that I had in 2005 come for other fans of this glorious game. We should all feel that way at some point in our lives. Last year it happened for Philadelphia, perhaps the most passionate sports town in the land.
Now the old phrase "Hope Spring's Eternal" is being said in big cities and small towns all over this country. With so many people out of work and the economy struggling to stay on its feet we again turn to baseball.
I beg of you this year to get out to the ballpark. Buy a cheap seat somewhere, take your kids or parents or both. If your budget is thin then head out to a minor league game somewhere or even a local high school or college.
Buy yourself a hot dog, soft pretzel or churro or bring a bad lunch and sit in the grass. Take a long look up at the sky and just breathe in all the fresh air and green grass. When you come home send me an email about wby you think Josh Beckett's velocity is down or how you saw Carlos Lee dogging it in the outfield.
Give me your scouting report on the local high school kid with the 12-6 curveball. Let's talk baseball this year people. Me, Todd Farino, Ryan Hallam, R.C Rizza, Evan Dickens and others will be here all year long and we want to hear your baseball stories.
Whatever happens in 2009, whether your team wins it all or loses 100 games let's make some lasting memories. Let's remember all that once was good so that it can be again. Let's mark the time.
Best of luck to each and every one of you in your fantasy leagues and beyond this season!!
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