I don’t know why I still follow baseball. After the nonsense of an infield fly rule called in the outfield of a nonsense one-game wild card playoff, I was so over baseball last year. Yet. Yes, yet, every winter I get suckered back in. Even before winter is finished, those words “Pitchers and catchers report” get my attention and I’m back again.
I grew up on baseball. My father took me to my first football game, but when I went to my grandparents, the Braves were always on. It didn’t matter which set of grandparents, at either house the TV was always on TBS in the evening when I visited. At home, I had a transistor radio and at night I tuned it to WSB and Pete, Skip, and Ernie would talk me to sleep as a child. I learned to score games and even today I’ll buy a program and a pencil at a game so I can fill it out. I didn’t play organized baseball as a child because I played soccer, but when I was a little older I played church league softball. However, in our cul-de-sac all of the kids would play baseball with a wiffleball bat and a tennis ball. We were Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Claudell Washington, Gene Garber, or Phil Nekro. It didn’t matter if the Braves were terrible (and they were) they were our team.
Something funny happened in high school. Our terrible team suddenly, and very suddenly became very good. I was on the phone with a friend when Sid Slid and we screamed at each other. We were so excited as a city that we threw a parade for losing the World Series. Then came the strike and when the Braves did win the World Series, I was 600 miles away and still mad about the strike. That’s ok though because leading three games to none the next year, I was going to get my chance to celebrate a World Series at home and Jim Leyritz ruined all that. That’s when the cynicism set in from year after year of playoff exits. After that, football became more fun at Georgia Tech and I rediscovered soccer.
Still, I can’t shake baseball and the Braves (and if we’re going include teams that underachieve in the post-season, let’s throw in Georgia Tech baseball, too.) No sport has the optimism right in time to match the weather every spring. No other sport drags through the long, slow summer with such a laconic pace. No other sport brings me face-to-face with such constant failure where one hit out of four at bats is a decent day. No other sport ushers in the bitter cold of winter with the bitter cold disappointment in the post-season. We’ve taken the girls to college and minor-league baseball, but this year it’s time to go to Turner Field. I’ll set aside my pessimism, just like I do every spring, and bring back the soundtrack to my summer evenings again.