By: Big Rygg
It has been a long off-season.
I want you to think about those words for a few moments. Think about them and allow yourself to feel them. What do they say? What do they mean? How do those words make you feel?
What makes the off-season long?
Is it as simple as the length of time between the ball popping a broken in mit to end the last game of the fall and the first pop of that familiar glove when pitchers and catchers begin to throw?
Is it a mental thing where the seaons change from nine games in 10 days to one game per week (if you even are a football fan)? Is it the b@stard two weeks of the sports calendar that suck the life of out of everyone between the end of the Super Bowl and that glorious day a short 36 hours away because they are just so empty?
Is it a physical thing? Lots of us (at least in the heart of Brewer Nation here in Wisconsin) put on at least a few pounds over the winter due to simple inactivity. You just aren’t able to take walks around the neighborhood in -30 degree windchills. You can putter around the yard with the mower, trimmer, pruning shears, etc. Shoveling at least gets your some movement, but it’s hardly much of a constant motion thing.
Is it a temperature thing? This ties into both the mental and physcial, but more specifically the temperatures (again, especially here in Wisconsin) can be so devestatingly cold at times. This makes the days simply seem longer because all you want to do is climb back into bed and hide under your warm covers. With baseball comes the promise of warmer days. That is a powerful force.
Is it all related to the annual Hot Stove League and all the comings and goings? Did this off-season seem longer because of the flux on this Brewers team? CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets both leave the organization for greener pastures and paychecks. Salomon Torres rides an amazing performance into the sunset as he retires for the second time in his career. Our one-year bullpen contracts, and one of the longer ones, expire causing the team to lose Mr. Dependable (Brian Shouse), Mr. 2nd Half (Guillermo Mota) and the $10 millon mistake (Eric Gagne). Mike Cameron was thought to follow in those players’ footsteps, but the team surprised some when it exercised the option on his contract. Then there were rumors of Cameron being traded to the Yankees but ultimately the team kept him. There were even more rumors about some players possibly being moved for other pieces, whether or not a certain prospect would break camp with the club, which free agents we might sign, etc, etc, etc! It certainly got to be exhaustive.
Whatever your reason for feeling that the off-season is as long as it feels, let’s delve deeper into the next layer of it all.
How does the anticipation of what begins in 36 short yet excruciatingly long hours make you feel? What do the words “Pitchers and Catchers” mean to you?
Let me bold this next sentence in a perhaps feeble attempt to convey the emphasis that I wish to place on it…
I contend that every baseball fan, every true fancier of the game of baseball, knows exactly what those words mean.
For me it’s a cornucopia of emotions and memories. A blend of the past and present along with thoughts of the future.
It’s County Stadium. It’s Bernie’s Chalet and Beer Stein. It’s waiting for players to walk to their cars after the game. It’s long car rides to the game flush with childhood eagerness and long car rides home that I mostly slept through. It’s hot dogs, bratwursts, popcorn and Cracker Jack.
It’s Miller Park. It’s Bernie’s Dugout. It’s the 1982 A.L. Championship banner decal in left field. It’s the green, patterned grass. It’s the precision of the grounds crew, the gameday staff, the vendors. It’s shorter rides to and from but with just as much eagerness to get to the ballpark. It’s tailgating from my own car. It’s bobbleheads and good friends.
It’s a job on game day. It’s taking my family to the game like I was taken. It’s sharing what I know about the game with my daughter when she’s able to learn it and just enjoying her presence both now and then.
It’s calling the postgame show. It’s discussing the previous day’s game with the fella at the office. It’s blogging. It’s podcasting. It’s interviewing players, staffers and the guys in the boothes.
From the things I know about myself and this game, Pitchers and Catchers, the anticipation of the season, these last 36 hours…what I feel, what this means to me, why the off-season seems so long and it feels like Opening Day will never come though it always does…
To put it into one word that should be taken at it’s purest and simplest definition:
So…what does it mean to you?