“Pitchers and Catchers report!” It’s as sure a sign of the coming spring as erupting dandelions. Yes, the return of baseball is a bellwether of warmer days, even if baseball itself should expect a somewhat chilly reception these days.
Critics say the games are too long and tedious. Smart, run-scoring strategy has been replaced by brutish free-swinging for the cheap seats, say baseball’s purists. And don’t even get tongues wagging about that Yankee third baseman.
For my own part, I’ve had a suspicion about the game for some time. After the players’ strike of the mid 1990s I lost faith. The more recent scandals involving performance enhancing drugs and the obscene amounts of money paid to mere mortals for throwing and striking a rawhide ball have done nothing to reclaim my confidence. And have you taken your kids to a game lately? To park, $30. For tickets, $75, $60 for sodas and snacks. And forget the souvenirs. I can’t swing that kind of cash.
What makes all of this so difficult to take is the fact that some of my fondest memories center on baseball. Some of my fondest memories were also made at church; in the little “church in the wildwood” of my formative years.
The pew bottoms were made of wooden slats that creaked and groaned during the service, pinching this little boy’s behind and picking holes in my mother’s pantyhose. On August nights I can recall the fiery summer revivals in that old house of worship – fiery in preaching and temperature – as I struggled to understand all that was going on.
Was this church “better” than what I have experienced as an adult? Probably not. Was it simpler, more sincere? Probably so. Major League Baseball and much of the church in America have arrived at the same place. Both are more driven by market and commercial forces than by a true sense of what they are. We are all the worse for it.
Terence Mann in “Field of Dreams,” may have captured the sentiment best. Standing in that enchanted cornfield-turned-baseball-diamond, he says, “They’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon…along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes…This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good; and it could be again.” May it be so.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.