This is baseball
Baseball is a part of my core self, the place I go to when I truly need peace and a haven from everything else going on. It’s something in the special pace of the game that allows me to breathe and rest and truly know the moment in front of me. That time when a ball cracks against the bat, or smacks into the catcher’s mitt. There’s a pureness there that I can’t find or see elsewhere. It’s a simple and complex game. We’ve all heard these types of words before on Opening Day. I know mine fail to capture what I really feel and see in the game. But I have to write something.
My oh my it just continues
Baseball has been with me since I was a little kid. It was there every day as I grew up and dealt with what we all deal with growing up. Bullies, frustrations, successes. When the Spring came and with it Opening Day I knew I could always turn on the radio and just listen. For me it was Dave Neihaus. He was the voice of my childhood and there as I became a teenager and more. There was just so much joy and genuine kindness in that man that came out during every game. My team, as one might expect now, was the Seattle Mariners. I grew up in the 90s and instead of being a part of the tech boom or a fan of Kurt Cobain, it was baseball, books, reading, writing, outdoors, and yes, video games (a lot of Star Wars). I can’t really describe how much it meant to me. Instead I’m going to link to Macklemore’s My Oh My and just ask that you listen. Just listen. This speaks to me so much. I can’t really say how much. Thank you Macklemore for this piece of art.
It’s what I grew up in. Collecting cards. In drawers, binders, boxes. On my desk right now. That radio, staying up late for games. Still do. Autographs. Griffey. Edgar Martinez. Jay Buhner. Rich Amaral. Alex Diaz. Luis Sojo. I’m slowly working on collecting signed cards from that 95 team.
1995 was my year, a cornerstone year. I was there for all the Yankees-Mariners playoff games. It just continues. I couldn’t believe it. Good things did happen even for a bullied kid like I was. Good things happen. My Oh My. They do. They really do and will again. That’s what baseball was to me and still is. Back then it’s what could get me out of the spirals and fear. It was baseball. Now it’s more. Now it’s my family and kids and photography. But baseball’s still there and always will be. 1995 was proof to me as a kid that the underdog could succeed. That you could believe and just refuse to lose. The whole city believed in that team and I’ve rarely seen anything like it. It shows the power that sports and baseball have to unite us in one thing. Sports fan can hug and high five strangers and have drinks with them like long lost best friends. It’s one of the best things in this world. Sports can turn that stranger into a friend.
My first teams were the early 90s Mariners with Jay Buhner, Tino Martinez, Joey Cora, and others. We’d pay maybe $10-$15 for a game. I was lucky enough to get to about 10-15 games or a few more each year. So I really felt like I got to know the players and I knew the Kingdome as well as anyone. Every year at this time as a kid I’d go through the team and learn as much as I could about each player. This time of year was and always will be full of hope. This could be our year if things break right. I loved thinking about who might help us get closer to the playoffs. Who the next hot rookie would be (Bob Wolcott, Tim Davis, Ben Davis, Alex Rodriguez).
Alex Rodriguez signed this in person at Spring Training. Took a full minute or more to sign it. I’m never parting with it.
I wasn’t that great about picking up their cards. I’d usually buy packs. Except A-Rod. I did pick up some of his, and managed to get some of his autographs in person during Spring Training. I still have most of them and have always had a soft spot for A-Rod since. In school at this time I would often draw the Mariners logo in notebooks while in class. None of those drawings actually survived but I got good enough that when we had school events I got requested to do face paint for them. Talent, right?
The soul of the game: A place of peace
Mark Hamburger at peace in his element
For players I think baseball has to be where they are at peace the most, truly themselves. On the mound or at bat it’s just that moment and that time. They are truly in their own element and fully who they are. I saw this with Mark Hamburger and the Saints. He’s someone who just wants to play and loves the game so much. It’s in every fiber of who he is. This is shown by his career, how he just refuses to stop playing, hoping for another chance to play. Full disclosure. I’ve met Mark and his family and fully support him in his career and want him to succeed. He is so good with fans also. He’ll sign autographs, spend moments with fans, talk to them. One of those rare players who just gets it. To me this just shows baseball is his place of peace.
Tailgating with Mark’s dad, friends, and Saints fans
Me with Mark on the field after the game
Mark taking time for the fans
It’s been my place so often in life. In middle school and high school I was bullied relentlessly. Verbal abuse nearly every day. Good days were when it was minimal and I could avoid them. Baseball and my family were constants and my rocks. I loved my family and of course still do but when I could get away to a game on my own for a Saturday it was when my spirit was truly at peace. I feel this at other times now as well, through photography, and my own kids when I can be in the moment with them. It’s very had for me to just be at peace. My mind races and can conjure up negative thoughts and dark places easily. Growing up baseball was the place where that was the easy escape. A place where I could rest and be calm. It still is. But I’m getting better at just being there day-to-day. Thanks to baseball and what it is for me, what it initially showed and taught me. I’m not sure I’m explaining this well but that doesn’t matter. I just want to say it and perhaps others will get something from it. This peace is a part of what truly makes baseball the best sport in the world and why it has endured so long. This is the soul of the game and is something our culture sorely needs. We need a sport like baseball to remind us to slow down and just be in the present. No phones, no noise, just baseball. A chance to let our minds rest and process and be calm. We don’t always have to be racing so fast.
A place to be in the moment
This is baseball’s real lesson for all of us and why I love it so much. Why I tune in when I can, listen, and watch. It’s why I collect baseball cards and autographs and take photographs and write. All of these are ways to stay at peace and in the moment. All these activities calm those negative spirals and keep the darkness away. I hope you have something that can push those thoughts out. For my whole life it’s been baseball, and now my family and my kids and my photography. In my photography I’m always trying to capture what I feel for the game. I’m looking for that in baseball and in life. It helps me focus on that.
Those are my opening thoughts on opening day. I hope everyone can enjoy a little baseball today, some peace, some quiet. Just be.
A small giveaway
I am blessed to get this today. I’ll even have some baseball cards to open and go through. Just like when I was a kid. Thanks to the MLBPA no less, and a little luck. I won the box in their Totally Distorted Tuesday giveaway. In return I’ll give away something from the box. Not sure what, as I haven’t opened it yet. I’ll pin this post on Twitter and just retweet it to enter. I’ll have it open for the first weekend of baseball and draw the winner on Monday next week.
Opening the box will be happening this afternoon after work as I watch the Twins. My new adopted team. I love my Mariners still, and always will, but I live in Minnesota now. The Twins have a strong place in my heart now and I hope my kids will love them and baseball as much as I have. I want them to see the values in it, the joy in it, the peace it can offer.
Let’s play ball! And go Twins, and Mariners! This is our year.