It creeps up on you. You miss it when it’s gone, then life goes on and you forget about it. Then winter comes, the dark days, the snow, the rain. You turn your thoughts inward. You live your life inside. You stop dreaming. You exist.
But one day a bird chirps on the ledge of your window. It is a robin. A sign of spring. You go to your window, look out and see the sun rising a little earlier, the light streaming a little more powerfully. You begin to feel it. Soon it will be spring.
You see the news stories first. There are new rules in baseball. There will be a game clock like in football and basketball. The bases will be larger. The shift is gone. Suddenly, there are changes in baseball, the sport that moves at a glacial pace, always seems to be there, never seems to change.
Then you see a snippet of a game. You see a pitcher throw a split-finger fastball. You see an eager minor leaguer in an early game in Arizona, hoping to show off for the big team, flail as he waves at the too-fast pitch. You see players stretch and throw and laugh and play catch on the sidelines.
You drive by a high school and see the kids taking batting practice. Maybe your own kids are starting practice. You dust off the old mitt. You check your DVR to see if it taped Aaron Judge’s first game back.
You are getting ready for baseball to come back.
And you realize how much you count on baseball to fix everything.
No, baseball can’t fix inflation. Not with those ticket prices. Not with franchise players making 20, 30, 40 million a year.
Baseball can’t fix nefarious politicians and pundits with more focus on their bank accounts than the good of the nation.
Baseball can’t fix the faux arguments. Baseball can’t fix wokism. It can’t fix guns.
But baseball can change your focus. Baseball can put winter behind us and with it the petty issues that don’t seem to matter now. Now we can wonder if Aaron Judge can do it again. Could he hit 70?
How will the new rules change things? Will someone hit .400? Will there be more stolen bases? Will faster games bring back a national passion for the sport?
You can focus on grown men playing a boys' game. A large man on a little hill, throwing a little sphere towards a target near a man holding a honed stick. The sun is shining down and if the man with the stick hits that elusive rocketing pitch, the sphere may lift towards the heavens and careen into the stands, or line toward a waiting opponent who will run and attempt to end its flight. The sphere may get lost in the glare of the high spring sun and fall to the dewy green turf far enough away from the opponent to wreak havoc in the plans of their team.
Baseball is so simple. So elemental. I will throw it and try to keep you from hitting it. I will swing at it and try to keep you from catching it. There is no need to consult congress, or the news, or the Federal Reserve or even the internet. Everything you need to know is contained in that elemental contest.
And if the pitch avoids the bat, or if the bat collides with the pitch, you will be enclosed in the glorious tradition of this most elemental contest. If the ball goes far enough, you will hear the announcers evoke the memory of Ruth, Aaron, Bonds. If the pitch is fast enough, you may hear them talk of Ryan, Matthewson, Johnson (Walter or Randy). The history is present in baseball more than any other sport.
So rise, sun. Evaporate, dew. Sing, birds. Bring on the spring, because the spring brings baseball, and baseball brings hope. Baseball can’t make the world a better place all by itself. But it can change your focus, and with newfound hope, you can realize that making the world better is up to you, not baseball.