A playful utopia

A perfect California evening at Edison Field, Anaheim, April 2003

A perfect California evening at Edison Field, Anaheim, April 2003

“Baseball is a harbor, a seclusion from failure that really matters, a playful utopia in which virtuosity can be savored to the third decimal place of a batting average.” 
Mark Kramer

“Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” 
Sharon Olds

To borrow the phrasing of Tolstoy’s famous quote about families, it’s my impression that football fans are all alike, but each baseball fan loves baseball in his or her own way.  Some, such as my older son, have an encyclopedic knowledge of the game, its history, and its endless statistics, coupled with cherished memories of years spent playing the game.  Some, such as my husband, also have fond memories of years of playing, but are more focused on baseball in the present moment, watching when possible, checking scores daily when other priorities prevail.

Others such as my mother and I love the game for reasons we can’t quite define. We don’t completely understand it, or even know all that much about it, compared to the die-hard fans, and we don’t follow many teams.  But loyalty to our home team (the Atlanta Braves) and the many human stories behind the amazing plays draw us in, and the cracking of the bats in springtime is music in our ears.

I divide my time between far too many interests and obligations, so most of my fascinations wax and wane, going dormant for long stretches of time, obscured by distractions that are more important or urgent.  Baseball is no exception.  But for me, there’s nothing quite like walking into a baseball stadium and seeing the field stretched out beneath me, promising an evening when the clock is strangely suspended in a contest that could theoretically go on forever.  No matter how long I’ve been away from the game, the magic is always there.

Though I mostly forsake baseball nowadays for things that rightly take precedence in my life, my deep love for it never quite leaves me.  As Olds so perfectly describes, baseball banishes my larger anxieties by taking me briefly to a parallel universe that feels as reliable as the sunset, as old as America and as young as every springtime.

This post was first published seven years ago today. How strange that this year, for the first time in my lifetime, there is no baseball season underway. A game that seemed inextricable from American springtime has been sidelined, along with almost everything else, by an unprecedented turn of world events. Among all the shutdowns that are breaking hearts, cancelling hopeful plans and destroying carefully built businesses and retirement accounts, the absence of baseball seems an almost otherworldly omen. Here’s hoping that the game resumes with as much vigor as if it had simply been a prolonged rain delay.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

8 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia!
    The Atlanta Braves is Patrick’s favorite team also; I think he was about ten years old when his family lived there, and those are very formative years.
    Last year, we went to see the Red Sox. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but it’s still fun.
    A few years back, a friend won a suite at the Manchester (New Hampshire) Fisher Cats park, but it was on rehearsal night for her quartet… So along with other friends, she also invited her quartet, and we had a memorable evening listening to barbershop and watching a minor league game!
    Here in Minnesota, I’d rather watch the St. Paul Saints than the Twins. The Saints play outside, and there are so many other distractions that make the experience more home-towney. 😀

    • Music and minor league baseball…add a hot dog and what more could a person want? 🙂 Our local minor league team was to have moved to a new stadium this year (I think) but I don’t know whether that is going to happen now. I can’t imagine enjoying baseball if it wasn’t in an outdoor park or stadium. I know the arguments that can be made for a domed stadium in a cold climate, but I just don’t see how baseball can thrive in that sort of captivity. If Wrigley Field or Fenway Park fans can survive the cold, anyone should be able to.

  2. LB

    Hello Julia! It’s been many months since I’ve posted on my own blog (until yesterday!) and many more since I have visited other blogs. I’m so glad to see that you are still blogging!
    I’m so sorry about baseball season … my sweetie is a big baseball fan and he, too, is missing the sport! I do hope that you are well and managing these difficulty days of CoVid. Take care, my friend!

    • LB, it is great to see you here! Thanks for stopping by. We are staying well, and hope you are too! I have thought of you and other friends who are health care providers often during this pandemic. Sending big (socially distanced) cyber hugs!!

  3. Susan

    Julia, this is wonderful; I have many of the same feelings and reactions to baseball as you do. Even as a Yankees fan, I took joy in the Washington Nationals World Series victory last fall and I hope you did too! Btw I became a baseball fan when I watched the 1996 Yankees-Braves series with my family. I know that was probably not your favorite year but it certainly was suspenseful and memorable.

    Rumor has it that we may get MLB back at the beginning of July; let’s hope so! It is indeed strange without the game right now.

    • Yes, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever be truly back to normal until baseball returns. I have never seen the Nats play, but perhaps I should try to catch a game when things get started again. We shall overlook your being a Yankees fan– after all, nobody’s perfect. 😀 😀 😀 One of Drew’s high school teammates signed with the Yankees (and got a good bonus for doing so), and he got Drew and Jeff tickets to a game or two before he quit playing. Baseball is really just one big family underneath all the rivalries. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😀

  4. Susan

    Lol! I remember my family was traveling and staying in a hotel in 1974 the evening that Hank Aaron was expected to break Babe Ruth’s home run record. Even though we didn’t follow baseball much, we excitedly tuned in, and he did it! A little while later my sister and I went to the lobby, and overheard two businessmen who were checking in tell the desk clerk that they hoped they were in time to turn on the game and see it. We excitedly told them that he just had. They were disappointed to have missed it but also excited. Looking back I realize how momentous that was for everyone as normally we as junior high girls would not strike up a conversation with businessmen wearing suits!

    • Yes, I didn’t realize at the time just how significant the event was to die-hard baseball fans, but I knew it was something very big if my classmate didn’t even get into trouble for having a radio in class. The teacher allowing him to go to the office, and the principal making an announcement (something that was very very rare for him) underscored that this was history in the making. It’s such a fun memory for me, unique to the city I will always think of as my home town, yet also universal, as your own memory demonstrates.

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