“People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, 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, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”
~from Field of Dreams
As I write this, I am sitting in pea stubble field, harvested about two weeks ago, watching Danish Cowboy switch out combine headers so that we can begin the spring wheat harvest. We don’t cut down our fields prematurely to play baseball, but I can tell you that my kids and I have most definitely taken advantage of freshly cut fields of hay in which to have a game of catch while we wait for the evening’s fieldwork to be finished.
What is most striking, though, is that we just arrived home from a 78 hour, 1,200 mile trip (with countless city blocks on foot) to take in America’s (or at least our family’s) favorite pastime in Denver. Our crops were kind enough to give us a window of opportunity for a quick summer escape. People have told me that it’s just a game and led us to believe that we are somewhat crazed for the miles that we put on in pursuit of baseball, both kid-sized and professional. I can assure you, though, that we are not. We do it because we are wrapped up in memories that only the game can provide.
I have been immersed in baseball since I can remember. As a young girl, I have fond memories of playing softball with my Dad coaching. I remember the faces if not the names of the girls on my teams, the light blue color of our uniforms, and the cheap hats that never managed to look good on a girl’s head. We played catch in the backyard when we didn’t have games, right next to the jungle gym behind the garage.
I had the good fortune to watch the Phillies play at the Vet and fell in love with the Red Sox during the days of Pedro and Nomar after a friend of a friend who interned at a large Boston financial firm scored tickets to a 1st baseline box seat. The giant, legendary green wall and the Citgo sign are forever ingrained in the mind of a broke college student cheering inside a classic ball park on a hot summer night around the 4th of July in the most patriotic of America’s cities. I remember sitting with Danish Cowboy in our old trailer house the night they broke the Curse and won the World Series.
Baseball has taken me to rookie league games in Montana and to minor league games situated on an island in the Susquehanna River, the waterway that interspersed so many of my childhood and young adult travels.
It has taken me to explore towns in Montana and North Dakota that I otherwise would have never visited.
It has caused me to eat more pizza and ice cream than I ever thought possible.
More than geographically, though, and much more important than a count of who wins and loses, it has given me memories for the senses and the soul that always include dear family and friends. It is the crack of a bat, the pop of a perfectly placed hard throw in my mitt, and the shrieking giggle of my daughter after she hits a home run in a backyard game with rules known only to my kids (and her home run trot around the yard mimicking a wild horse much to my son’s chagrin). It is the kids begrudgingly picking up a bucket of balls after a session in the batting cage with Danish Cowboy. And it is the visions of my son playing pasture pop-ups with my Dad and my husband that are more satisfying than almost anything else that I know.
To me, it’s not just a game. It’s me sitting as a young girl in my pajamas on a hot, humid Pennsylvania night next to my Dad on the sofa ( both of us eating ice cream) with the screen door open and the birds chirping their good nights, the lightning bugs signaling their visions, and the incessant and inane thoughts of the announcers filling silent voids so that no conversation is needed. I have no idea which teams were playing, though I imagine it usually involved a ball club from the mid-Atlantic. I just remember how it made me feel and I looked in to my children’s and husband’s eyes last night at the ball game and know that they felt the same thing. It’s not just a game. It's a part of who we are.