Play Ball! The Church Of Baseball's Passionate New Year

Brian HaleContributor IJanuary 10, 2011

For the majority of baseball fans, baseball is revived from hibernation every April. But for a select few, baseball never sleeps. It's more than a 24/7/365 hobby.

It's a passion.

The same select few know that there are 108 stitches on a baseball, that the phrase: "Pitchers and Catchers Report" signals a new beginning, and that any Kevin Costner baseball-related movie should be placed behind bullet-proof glass in Cooperstown, NY. It's a passion that progresses through a cyclical life cycle as the pages on the calendar turn, culminating with a glorious celebration in early April known only as: Opening Day.

The foreplay contains 8 a.m. parking lot beer pong tournaments with franks and burgers, fathers playing catch with sons who dream of playing in the cathedral in the background, and businessmen trading in their suits and spreadsheets for their favorite player's name and number. Fans anxiously await outside the cathedral gates, eager to step inside and find their spot in the stands.

The cool of the morning air is overshadowed by the brilliant sunshine and the familiar, succulent smells of the ballpark. Programs and peanuts, beer and brats, caps and gloves--everything is right in the world again. Introducing new teammates and watching the team stand together along the white chalk ends with a demonstration of America's military strength and a chilling performance of Francis Scott Key's famous anthem.

The excitement and anticipation of what the next six months will bring creates conversations with strangers and instantly turns strangers into best friends. There's so many games and so many things that can happen before October. But this is our year.

Last October ended like every other year: in disappointment. The ultimate goal was not achieved. The suits and ties of the organization spent the winter shelling out millions on this name and that name, hoping this year was the year when all the puzzle pieces finally fit. This free agent went here, a now former teammate went there, and one team spent how much on that guy? It's a revolving game of Chess between 30 teams and their executives, each strategically moving their pieces here and there, eager to prove next October they can claim "Checkmate." 

After following all the free agent signings, winter meetings, draft day moves and blockbuster trades, it's finally come down to this: the first day of the new season. It's time to see what we're made of. It's time to prove that our team is better than the 29 others. It's time to have high expectations about the team and get measurements for new rings.

The lines are chalked. The gloves are on. The lineups have been exchanged. The umpire signals the pitcher and exclaims those two famous words: "Play Ball!"

Finally, everything is right in the world again. The new year is finally under way.