I was trying to sweat off a few beers walking along the Allegheny River last week and couldn’t help but notice all the activity around PNC Park. Power washing, mulch spreading, sign hanging, all part of getting ready for opening day. You can’t last 37 years in the sports media business without both loving sports and becoming at least a bit cynical about them. But when it comes to this time of year and the return of baseball, there is a little more spring in my Fitbit monitored steps.
Baseball has not been the real national pastime for a long time now in America. Everyone knows that. There are those who actually think the country is addicted to football and it’s hard to disagree. I get it. The game of baseball is too slow for a lot of people in the 21st century. But that is also part of what makes it special. It’s not just what takes place between the white lines that makes it so appealing. There are few human beings who do not like sunlight better than darkness, warmth better than cold. Spring comes every year with the hope and realization that the days will get both longer and more pleasant. And that, coinciding with the start of baseball season, makes the start of baseball season the best beginning in sports.
Of course around these parts the game has taken a few torpedoes to the broadside, at least at the major league level. There were a lot of years where cutting your grass (or having a root canal) was a more pleasant option than watching the Pirates. That has changed. They are relevant again not only in Western Pennsylvania but beyond. For me though, even in the down years, there was something comforting in knowing that there are box scores to pour over along with that cup of coffee almost every morning for half of a year. Games to curse, games to marvel at, games to argue about…tons of games.
And they keep going on despite what else is happening in your life. You don’t plan your schedule around a once-a-week-event. Baseball happens around your schedule. You can jump on and jump off when you have the time. But it’s always there.
So much will happened by the time this season ends. The Penguins are about to start what looks like it can be a very interesting playoff run. Pitt and Penn State will resume their football rivalry. The Steelers will go to Latrobe and kick off another new season. Personally I have a daughter graduating from high school and another graduating from college this spring. There will be picnics and beach vacations and trips to Kennywood and the 4th of July. Through all of it there will be a game on the radio or TV or on your smartphone or computer or tablet or who cares?! Baseball weaves itself through daily life providing a backdrop, if not the main event of each day. The constant nature of its schedule provides a rhythm other sports cannot. Just about every day for the next six months, the Pirates will play a game. At this stage of my life that is about as close to a guarantee as I can get on anything. I’ll take it. Play ball.