Yesterday, Sports Illustrated senior writer Jack McCallum recalled his father's love of the Philadelphia Phillies and how that translated into his own love of baseball. Similarly, my father introduced me to baseball. He was a fan of the Yankees teams of the 1950s and early 60s, Mantle and Maris and Yogi Berra. I started playing baseball because it was a way to spend time with my dad. He worked swing shift at a paper mill and farmed full-time. Any time I could spend with him was necessary and precious. Thus, I became an outfielder on a Little League team...actually, in rural North Carolina, it was a Dixie Youth League team.
So began my passion for baseball. Ironically, my dad is not a baseball fan today. There was no one thing that drove him away from the game; no, he gave his time, his interest, indeed his life to his farm, his family, and his church. And since he retired at 72, woodworking has replaced farming.
I had a stretch in my life when I put aside baseball for the sake of a relationship. That relationship ended, not well, and baseball came back. It's stayed with me through other relationships, an old friend. And, like old friends should, it has its niche in my life. Not first, not last, but just right.
I treasure the game of baseball, and just as deeply, I despise the business of baseball. Its place in the entertainment industry seems to have dislodged its place in sport. In that, it is like much that is American. The ideals are there, but the practice hides them.
Give me what happens between the foul lines, please, and leave the rest outside the stadium.