My first writings were about family and veterinary medicine. The next most important topic is baseball. This is because baseball is the perfect game. The preceding statement is something I no more need to defend than one would need to explain their religious leanings or their belief that their mother makes the best chocolate chip cookies.
This Saturday was a baseball marathon. It was all baseball, all day. Nick, my twelve-year-old, was playing in a tournament. I spent the day in a comfy fold-up chair with a friend watching our boys play and elusively chasing shade. We chatted crossword puzzles and baseball. After the last game, he and I took our boys to the Mariners game.
The boys played two games in the grueling heat. I’m from Seattle so “grueling” is anything above 75 degrees. Though, to be fair, it was 90+ degrees on Saturday. You could have fried an egg on the pitcher's mound. Their first game had several good innings but the defense was colander-like and the other team hit too many balls hard. They lost by a lot. The second game was worse. There were moments though. My son caught two outfield fly balls. The catcher played well and hit a double. The pitchers threw strikes and bravely carried on. They lost by more. Even from the losing side of the diamond, a day watching baseball is a good day. We scurried out quickly and headed to Safeco. Iwakuma was slated to pitch.
We sat in seats close to the field that my family has had since the first season the Mariners played. I grew up, and my kids have grown-up, in seats behind the plate. We watch pitches break and hitters buckle to curve balls. We call pitches with the umpires and question their strike zones. We watched Ichiro do his on deck routine for many years. We saw Felix Hernandez break in to the majors and learn to dance his pitches around the strike zone. I saw Ken Griffey Junior explode on to the scene and I watched Randy Johnson learn to throw “Mr. Snappy”. I was there for every game of the 1995 division series when Edgar Martinez took out the Yankees and Seattle became a baseball town. And it is a baseball town. We may mock the Mariners in their drought of prominence but it is different now. The discussion goes on today, win or lose. Pre-1995 was another era. The Mariners were irrelevant except to the faithful. The Kingdome echoed. We could hear the pitchers grunt and the ball hit the catcher's mitt.
Iwakuma was masterful Saturday. Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano hit homers. The team played stellar defense. The Mariners won and took the second game in a row from Oakland, the best team in baseball at the moment. It is July and the Mariners are in the conversation. If the playoffs were tomorrow, they would be the second wild card team. I spent the game talking baseball with my friend. The boys were having a great time between embracing the many food choices and being riveted to the game.
As I looked at the boys and as I watched the game, I was struck by the similarities between the games I had watched. The later game had more talent to be sure, this game was a touch crisper and the participants made more money doing it. There is certainly more pressure and greater expectations up here but, at the core, it was still just a bunch of boys playing ball on a summer day. All the players are thrilled when they get hits and dejected when they don't. All the pitchers try and outsmart the hitters. All the boys laugh and congratulate each other for good plays and bask in the camaraderie of the dugout. When looking around the stands at either game, it is a bunch of people wishing they could play. If not literally, then at least figuratively. In our own ways, many of us want to be part of it. We want to make the pivot at second and throw on to first to complete the double play. We dream of connecting with an elevated fastball and driving it over the left center fence. All baseball fields are fields of dreams.
Within those dreams are so many good parts of life and so many of life's lessons. Things are more fun with friends.
Hard work is rewarded, except when it isn’t. Failure is inevitable in the pursuit of success. Overnight success takes a long time and an immense amount of background sweat. You’ll pay more for food if someone carries it to you. Wear sunblock. Don’t argue with authority. Over half the battle is believing in yourself. Sun, grass and play are the leisure trifecta. Hope runs eternal in spring. Tomorrow is a new game.