I have several close friends who are English Major writerly types. My buddy Bryan wrote this.
- Was gonna post this to your blog…thought it might be a little gay…also wanted to work in how three little black kids showed up at the end of your game on sunday playing with broken bats…ran onto the field to mess around and then they turned the lights off.
There is something about baseball that inclines the written word towards a nostalgic glorification. So often in movies, books, and television documentary’s there is this resonating obsession with the grass, the sky, leather, wood, players as heroes, all the elements of baseball being described romantically, as if a thesis about the best parts of what it is to be an American man.
Some strange feeling that awakens the senses to being alive, as if there is no better place to be alive, spectator or player, than near a , in all its endless detail and all its possibilities. Each play is a renewal, a challenge of focus and timing, a mixture of curiosity and fear, patience and aggression, a chance for guilt or redemption.
And the tools are heralded, gloves oiled, balls massaged, bat handles meticulously taped and tacked. The debt and gratitude of the wooden bats, breaking one is like breaking a limb, something so precious, so cared for and entrusted to be the conduit of a man’s god given skill, clarity and timing.
I watched a player borrow another man’s bat and line one for a hit. Returning to the dugout he thanked the owner of the bat so genuinely it was as if he had been the recipient of a kidney. Likewise broken bats are smashed to the ground by the handle tested for cracks and fired into a nearby trash-can with furrowed brows, muttered curses, and dark feelings.
And the baseball itself is more than an object. A baseball symbolizes something when you hold it in your hand, the many varied ways to throw it and how someone chooses to and has learned to throw it mean something, it’s like a person’s signature.
“You have to know the feel of a baseball in your hand, going back awhile, connecting many things, before you can understand why a man would sit in a chair at four in the morning holding such an object, clutching it-how it fits in the palm so reassuringly, the corked center making it buoyant in the hand, and the rough spots on an old ball, the marked skin, how an idle thumb likes to worry the scuffed horsehide. You squeeze a baseball. You kind of juice it or milk it. The resistance of the packed material makes you want to press harder. There’s an equilibrium, an agreeable animal tension between the hard leather object and the sort of clawed hand, veins stretching with the effort. And the feel of raised seems across the fingertips, cloth contours like road bumps under the knuckle joints-how the whorled cotton can be seen as a magnified thumbprint, a blowup of the convoluted ridges on the pad of your thumb. The ball was deep sepia, veneered with dirt and turf and generational sweat-it was old, bunged up, it was bashed and tobacco-juiced and stained by natural processes and by the lives behind it, weather-spattered and character as a seafront house”. (Don Dellilo).
To play baseball as a child is like participating in magic. Taking that tense anxious excited feeling before and game and releasing it on the field and seeing what happens. I watched a men’s amateur baseball game a few Sundays ago. Late into the night, the myth of each team’s best player gathering , concealing a deep urge to take the field scoop up a grounder and fire it across the diamond as hard as I could, slam a closed fist into the palm of the glove, grab my nuts, adjust my hat, and spit on the field. The urge to play a game that is not easily played or won, with concise rules, unexpected outcomes, and offers the reward of, both, personal and collective pleasure.
Along these lines I’ll once again link Rob Swanger’s recap of the AC Tournament.