Baseball is life. Plain and simple.
As a kid there was nothing else. My room was a fortress surrounded by a moat of Donruss, Topps and Bowman baseball cards. Cal Ripken, Jr., Don Mattingly and Lenny Dykstra Starting Lineup figures roamed as they pleased guarding my sacred stash of magazines -Baseball America.
Only my mother thought those magazines would be the appropriate reading level for an 8-year old. While the other kids in school were trading Albert Belle and Randy Johnson for Kirby Puckett cards I was always looking to the future. Kids laughed as I swapped a Junior straight up for some rookie named Derek Jeter. Vladimir Guerreo’s came in by the dozens at the hands of those thinking they had me hoodwinked. Four Pujols for a Juan Gonzalez, I guess I can make that trade.
I chose to amass my autograph collection from Harrisburg, Reading and Trenton while other kids waited for hours outside the professional stadiums like the Vet and Camden Yards, twenty rows deep from ever seeing the pros .
Who needs stocks when you can invest in history?
Every dime growing up was spent on baseball memorabilia. Artifacts such as Veterans Stadium seats, a Stan Musial glove, Warren Spahn’s 1948 Bowman rookie and a New York Times of the passing of The Babe lined my shelves while my friends spent their money at Pep Boys supping up their Civics that only had a thousand miles left in them.
I guess for me there was never really an option. From the first time I walked into a baseball stadium I fell in love with the sights and smells of the ballpark, even if it was the Astroturf, concrete and spilled beers of Philadelphia. I loved it just the same.
Senior skip day in high school meant a trip to the Vet for Opening Day even if it meant the beginning of yet another disappointing year.
As each new October rolled on, I eventually found myself sitting amongst a sea of new-found fans as the rains pummeled me in Game 5 just before Carlos Ruiz pounced into Brad Lidges’ arms reaching for the heavens.
There’s magic in baseball. There’s hope. For me it’s all I ever wanted to do. Even when I had to turn in my glove for the pen I felt no resentment. Just the idea that the long proud history of writers who capture the suspense on paper in ways only our imaginations could recreate, can accompany legends such as The Splendid Splinter, The Mick, Campy and of course the Iron Horse in the baseball Vatican nestled on the lakes of Cooperstown is inspiring.
My love for baseball as a writer, enthusiast and as a fan comes from somewhere deep down in that chubby 8-year old’s heart.
Despite the hardships of life, April to October are a welcoming reminder of the past and present that there’s still good in this world.
Even if that good is just a game.