‘Hope Springs Eternal’
‘T he one constant through all the years, Ray, 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, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
If you’re a fan of movies or a fan of baseball, you probably recognize that little speech. It’s from “Field of Dreams,” the 1989 film. You know, the one with the “If you build it, they will come” line that gets used and abused for all sorts of things. Well, the above quote comes from Terrance, James Earle Jones’s character, who is encouraging Kevin Costner’s Ray to build the titular field of dreams. It’s a great quote because it truly captures what baseball means to me and so many others.
You see, this is Opening Week for the 2021 Major League Baseball season. This time tomorrow, there should be a full slate of games being played on Fox Sports, ESPN, the MLB Network, and a few other spots, with thousands of fans packed into stadiums from New York to California, enjoying some overpriced peanuts and Crackerjack (and probably a few beers). Sure, it won’t be exactly “business as usual,” with stadiums operating at around 25 percent capacity, and Canada still won’t let the poor Blue Jays into Toronto, but it’s still going to be baseball season again. It’s a far cry from this time last year, when there was no joy in Mudville, or anywhere else there’s a baseball diamond. Not because Mighty Casey has struck out, but because he didn’t even get a chance to even lace up his spikes and pick up a bat until late July.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there were a lot of other, more important things that were and are still being disrupted, delayed and downright cancelled because of the coronavirus, but I’m glad I can at least count on Major League Baseball to be back on my TV, and with a little more progress on the battle with COVID-19, we might even head up to St. Louis or down to Atlanta to catch a game live this year. I know football and basketball have a greater grasp on the public’s attention these days, but baseball has always been my sport. It’s the only one I really stuck with from tee-ball to today. I have always enjoyed playing it, I’ve always enjoyed coaching in, and I’ve always enjoyed watching the game, whether it’s a bunch of MYSA 10-year-olds or the Atlanta Braves, show me a baseball game and I’m a happy guy.
And in truth, the start of the MLB 2021 season is just a small part of “baseball time” in the good ol’ U.S.A. College baseball got started a few weeks ago and our very own Diamond Hogs of the University of Arkansas are currently ranked #1 in the nation. They’re a little hard to find on the TV sometimes (because, again, even at the college level, baseball lags far behind football and basketball when it comes to popularity) but if you have ESPN+ or the SEC Network, I can tell you, they’re a fun bunch to watch.
And baseball isn’t just about the sport to me. I mean, I like sports. And apparently, I’ll watch any sport. Thanks to the suspension of all the sports last year during the pandemic, we were all subjected to a steady diet of old sports … and weird sports. Back during the big spring and summer “shelter in place” months, I watched the 1979 World Series, the UFC’s greatest one-hit knockouts, some old Memphis Wrestling shows and, I kid you not, the national Dodgeball Finals from 2019. Did you know there’s professional corn-hole?
These days, I’m getting my fix watching my daughter and the rest of the Lady Blue Devils on the softball diamond. And while the West Memphis softball program is clearly pretty low on the district’s priority list, those girls have some talent. They even won their first four games before running into a ridiculously loaded Jonesboro squad. And so deep does my love of baseball run that after a game they had in Bay last night, I sat and watched a team full of kids who could absolutely be no older than 3 or 4 years old practicing tee-ball. Sure, most of them were completely uninterested in what they were supposed to be doing out there … but not all of them. There were a couple who, even at that age, were picking up the concept, scooping the ball up in their gloves and chunking it to first base.
Of course, a few of them were rolling in the grass or picking dandelions, and that, as much as anything else, sums up baseball.