Steve Eighinger

Baseball's back, and not a minute too soon

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 16, 2017 8:50 pm

We finally made it.

Winter is officially over, finished. I don't care what the calendar says.

Spring training is underway in Florida and Arizona, and for me that's good enough. Baseball is back.

I enjoy football season and tolerate basketball. But baseball? It's a grind that starts in mid-February and lasts until the first week of November. At the end of every World Series, I'm emotionally spent and ready for a break, but by January I'm itching for it all to begin again.

And it always does.

Why is baseball so different? Maybe it's my generation. I think baseball has always been more important for baby boomers. It's the sport we grew up with, still talk about, and appreciate more than the millennials or Gen-Xers or whatever other group is out there.

The subtleties and nuances of baseball are addictive, much like its statistics. No sport caters to numbers in the fashion baseball does.

My fondest recollections of growing up are still centered on baseball characters like Sudden Sam McDowell and Hawk Harrelson. My son, however, grew up in the age when the NFL took over our consciousness, and my grandkids are a part of the LeBron generation. And I understand that, but it doesn't dampen my own love of baseball.

When my baseball interest begins to build at this time each year, I always recall some of the more famous quotes and thoughts tied to the sport, such as:

º Actress Susan Sarandon's famous soliloquy at the opening of "Bull Durham," when her Annie Savoy character confesses:

"I believe in the church of baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring. ... I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the church of baseball."

º George F. Will, a Pulitzer Prize–winning political analyst who the Wall Street Journal once called "the most powerful journalist in America," has always had a love affair with baseball:

"Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona."

º And the famous observation from Terrence Mann, the character James Earl Jones portrayed in "Field of Dreams":

"The one constant through all the years ... has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: It's a part of our past ... it reminds us of all that once was good and could be good again."

That it does, every year about this time.