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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It Will Always Be a Field of Dreams*

Camden Yards

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, April 3, 2008
*Ada, OK Evening News, April 4, 2008
as "Signs of new life, and baseball, spring forth"

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Couey

Green grass; blue sky; soft breezes. The sunshine caresses the shoulders with gentle, welcome warmth. All around us, life is springing forth. The tree branches, once so stark in their winter outlines now seem a bit fuzzy with the buds of future leaves, dappling the sunlight as their shadows dance with the winds. The grass loses its monochromatic dullness to the richly verdant green of new growth.

In our homes, the windows, for so long locked tight against winter’s relentless cold, are joyfully thrown open, the soft breezes dispelling the months of mustiness and gloom. It’s time to be outside; the spirit awakens; smiles come easily.

It is the season in which we are drawn to lovely green diamond-shaped fields. There, we breathe deep and smell the familiar earthy aromas of dirt, leather, and chalk.

Winter is over; spring is here. Baseball is back.

To the purblind and the visionless, it is only a game. But, for the rest of us, it goes much deeper.

Baseball is a game meant to be played under clear skies and sunshine. It is spring and summer, freed from the clock-driven tension of the other sports. And although there are moments of excitement, most of the time the mood is easy, even pastoral. As one wag described it, “6 minutes of excitement squeezed into two-and-a-half hours.”

There is a timeless element to this game. Each day is longer and warmer. The long season renders yesterday’s loss a forgotten memory replaced by the eternal hope of tomorrow. It is of the moment, yet firmly linked to a nostalgic past and an unquenchable hope for the future.

The Ballpark is a sanctuary, one of those increasingly rare places where we’re shielded from the grinding complexities of the world. We can lose ourselves in the sun, the sky, and the game. No one’s said it better than James Earl Jones in the iconic movie “Field of Dreams::”

“They’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. They’ll watch the game, and it will be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that was once good; and that could be again.”

Baseball is the link that binds generations. It’s a game that fathers taught to their sons, creating those memories that last a lifetime. While having fun, we were taught the values of teamwork and the hard truth that success can only come from hard work. And when there are two outs in the bottom of the ninth and you’re behind, you don’t give up; you bear down even harder. We were taught how to win with grace and lose with dignity. For many sons raised by strict and distant fathers, baseball became the one thing we could share, the magical bridge that could span even the stoniest of silences; the one conduit through which love could flow, unhindered by the social artifices of manhood.

In the recent past, the game has become tarnished by the business-driven economics of Major League Baseball. Sadly, the professional side of the sport doesn’t dominate our lives the way it once did.

But the magic still happens; in a park, an open field or just the back yard. There, you will see fathers and sons, yes, and daughters as well, “having a catch.”

It’s a deceptively simple thing really, a game of catch. But as the ball sails back and forth through the sun-splashed sky, finding its target with a smack of leather that stirs the spirit, two lives are connecting; love is happening. Those moments will live forever in the most cherished places in their hearts.

It is more than a game. It is the signal harbinger of rebirth and renewal.

Baseball, a game of the soul, is alive and well in America.
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