What does baseball mean to me?
It means an 8 year old boy sleeping with his mitt on just in case a late-night game breaks out in his dreams.
It means closing your eyes and swinging as hard as you can.
It means being up far past your bedtime, stuffing towels under your door, and watching west coast road trips on mute.
It means hope springing eternal and waiting for next year, again, and again, and again.
To some it’s a paycheck, to others a way to spend a summer night, for me it’s a religion and my cathedrals range from the grand metropolitan palaces to old rundown asphalt parking lots.
It means the first kiss on a first date in the 7th inning of a blowout.
It means butterflies in the batter’s box of a tight game.
It means that fantasy and reality could be as close as a single hanging curveball.
It means the poor son of a Georgia farmhand becoming Jackie Robinson and starting a revolution.
It means the emotional rollercoaster that only October baseball can bring.
It’s the sound of an entire city nervously watching and erupting when the ball sails clear over a fence.
It’s praying and trying to make a deal with God that if he lets your team win today you will never ask for another thing again.
It’s the countless life lessons learned in between those white lines.
It means a bad day at the ballpark is still better than a good day anywhere else.
It’s the loyal acceptance that baseball can offer in an unkind world.
It’s feeling of the baseball gods’ approval with the perfect execution of a double play.
It means preparation meeting opportunity and resulting in a moment the world will never forget.
It means your hero taking the time to tell you to never stop believing in yourself.
It’s “play ball” being a secret passage back to your youth.
It means beating something bigger than you by tirelessly showing up to work every day.
It’s the pursuit of perfection and the realization that its presence is fleeting.
It means hot dogs and peanuts and the 7th inning stretch.
It’s hearing Babe Ruth’s boisterous approval in every pure crack of the bat.
It’s the locker room; the friendships brought together and carried on for the rest of your life.
It means closing your eyes during the national anthem and never forgetting where you came from.
It means playing in a dirt-covered jersey because you refused to take it off the night before.
It means sometimes your best is better than mine… but we will meet again.
It means pulling up your socks to emulate the heroes of the past.
It means dedicating your life to the pursuit of a 2 inch piece of gold.
It means ice cream after wins turning into champagne showers.
It means not being able to sleep the night before opening day.
It means paying homage to the past while shaping the future.
It means no matter how bad things might get there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
It means playing catch with dad while mom watches on with enthusiastic encouragement.
It means heartbreak and agony and words left unsaid.
It means getting so caught up that you nearly forget to breathe.
It’s the wonderment in a toddler’s eye the first time he sees that shining forest green diamond in person.
It means sneaking into the batting cages at midnight to get a few cuts in while the world is fast asleep.
It means the anticipation, amazement, and wonder that accompanies opening day.
It means a 200 pound man expelling every bit of energy in trying to beat a 5 ounce ball to a 17 pentagon.
It means that all you need is a stick and a ball to have the best summer of your life.
It means no matter where you’re from or what your family name you have a chance to be somebody.
It means a teary eyed Lou Gehrig bidding adieu from the physical world but living on forever.
It means the smell of freshly cut grass on a lazy July afternoon.
It means watching a Punch and Judy veteran finally experience the childlike joy that accompanies a home run and sheepishly smile as he jogs the bases.
It means hugging an absolute stranger in a moment of unbridled happiness.
It means 80 year old men being reduced to uncontrollable tears at the exploits of a 19 year old.
It’s the selfless act in sacrificing your momentary chance at glory for the good of the team.
It means choking up with two strikes and moving the runner.
It means saving your allowance for weeks in order to offer to take your family to a game.
It’s throwing a baseball on up on your roof and diving to catch it as it sluggishly rolls off your gutter.
It means standing in your back yard envisioning a 3-2 count in the bottom of the 9th of World Series game 7.
It means t-ball games and the sparkle in a young boy’s eye when he gets his first hit.
It means fighting tooth and nail for as long as you live to find the fraction of an inch that separates a pop-up from a home run.
It means learning from your failures and tipping your cap to the victors.
It means getting knocked down, dusting yourself off and ripping a double in the gap.
It means a 30 year old rookie finally getting his chance and blasting a grand slam in his first at-bat.
It means leaving it all on the field and playing every game like it’s your last.
It means sitting with your grandpa and hearing stories about Joe DiMaggio.
Baseball is 235 years of America wrapped up into each and every game.
For me, it’s being buried with pictures of my family and my baseball mitt, just in case that late-night game breaks out in heaven…
…and if the naysayers and non-believers are right and there is no heaven, I’ll still die satisfied because I’ve seen the closest thing to it.
What does baseball mean to me? In a word: Everything