Married to baseball

Ah, spring time – when a girl’s fancy turns to biking, boating and aimless putzing around in the garden. It’s a time to become reacquainted with that mud-caked bike we hastily stashed in the garage last fall, that gaping hole in the screen door that the dog ran through and the gardening tools rusting in the back yard. The days are longer, the birds are chirping and the gin and tonics flow like honey. What’s not to like?

Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that every year around this time, as the old apricot tree out front starts blossoming, I am filled with a twang of sorrow. And I love apricots. It’s just that when those buds start popping out filling the air with their fragrant blooms, it can only mean one thing. Baseball season is upon us.

Why would I be saddened by the start of the great American pastime season, you may ask. Nothing against America or peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jacks, but it’s just that the warmer months can get a little lonely around my house. That’s right, I’m a baseball widow.

I know, it could be worse. I mean, I could be a softball widow, a Nascar widow or, god forbid, a Star Trek widow. And I know that people who suffer from baseball addiction really can’t help themselves. There’s something about the crack of Louisville pine against that white rawhide that mesmerizes certain people into a hypnotic trance. As soon as that last “freeeeee” is crooned over the P.A. system and the first pitch goes out, the eyes glaze, the selective hearing kicks in and the stats begin spewing forth like water from a busted garden hose. Talk turns to trades, rookies, records and standings. Radios are permanently tuned to scratchy AM frequencies and TVs have a way of magically turning themselves on to ESPN even though no one appears to be in the room. “I was listening to that,” an omnipotent voice will call from the basement or garage if I so much look as look at the on/off switch.

Sure, it may seem harmless enough, but when you know so much about Barry Bonds that he’s practically a member of the family (one I personally wouldn’t mind disowning) and the sports section is habitually missing from the paper, it could be a sign of a serious problem. And when you walk into a dark room, only to find your loved one, head cocked, intently listening to three different games simultaneously emanating from three different sources, it’s safe to say, he or she may need professional help.

OK, so maybe I am a bit of an “enabler.” I’ll admit, I turn a blind eye to the constant invasion of Sports Center newscasters into my living room and pretend not to notice when he sneaks off for a quick, late-night visit to I try to muster sympathy when the Giants fall 10 games out or feign interest during a lecture on the finer points of the designated hitter.

But the fact of the matter is, I still can’t tell a National League team from an American League one, and I wouldn’t know A. Rod from a shower rod. And let’s face it, watching baseball is really no more captivating than watching Astroturf grow. We’re talking boring with capital “ZZZZZs,” a one-way ticket to comaville. I’ve seen shows on the mating rituals of Mongolian dung beetles that are more interesting than televised baseball. And the seventh inning “stretch” and organ music? There are AARP tour bus trips to “Luby’s” that are more happening. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that the most scintillating thing baseball affords the viewer is the occasional, shall we say, “adjustment” of the “equipment.” And don’t even get me started on the announcers.

But when I object to the snooziness, suggesting that maybe they could just jazz things up by making it full contact, incorporating a halftime show or even running the bases with their pants around their ankles if they get thrown out, I am met with firm indignation. There are nuances, I am told. Baseball is a thinking man’s game, more of an intellectual chess game than an American Gladiator cage fight. It involves not just physical skill but mental prowess, knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. An affection for baseball is one that’s not paid back via the instant gratification of blood, guts and fancy pyrotechnics but rather over a lifetime of devotion, perseverance, heartache and suffering. Think of those Red Sox fans who waited a lifetime to see the Bambino’s curse broken– and those Cubby fans who are still waiting. Perhaps it has something to do with baseball’s simplicity, its purity, its universal appeal to all people – men, women and children, black and white, rich and poor, tall and short, young and old, nerdy and cool.

Not sure where that puts me – but I think it’s a table at Luby’s with the dung beetles.

– Missy Votel