I remember a time when kids used to flock to open fields, parking lots, vacant lots or anything that could resemble a baseball diamond and throw their gloves into a pile and play pick 'em.
It was in the schoolyard before the snow came, and as soon as it melted. Weekends were always played outside with a friendly neighbourhood game of pick up. You would pick a baseball player to be and maybe you even had your own jersey with his name and number on the back.
School would write me off during Oct. and my dad would get a call from the principal's office if there was a pennant or world series day game. My old man would answer the rotary phone with me laying beside him on the floor in front of the tv watching the game and tell my teacher I had a bad cough.
He would then hang up the phone and not even look at me. "Cough" he would say... I coughed, then he would say, "now, its not a lie" without ever taking his eye of the TV set.
He did this because his dad did it for him. We had a long line of hookey playing to be proud of in this family.
But I think that tradition ended right there...
Somewhere after the early 90's strike, I fell out of love with America's pastime. I mean, I grew up with some greats, after they had followed guys like Mickey Mantle, Mr. October, Ted Williams and the list goes on....
My baseball was earless batting helmets, day games, uniforms that were short to the knee and tight to the ass and legs and were always filthy. Stirrups that were long and thin, cleats that needed to be beaten with a bat in the batters box everytime you called for time. The smell of tobacco near a bugout from all the players chewing chaw with big cheekfulls of it...
The Big Red Machine, the hated Pittsburgh Pirates, George Brett charging an ump out of the dugout, the New York Yankees firing Billy Martin 7 times, All-Star games where you knew every name because they were the greatest year in and year out. Ballcaps with curves so round that they were almost illegal. You were NOBODY if you wore the cap any other way than it should be worn. Forwards, NOT sideways, or canted, maybe backwards if you were representing a rallycap at the end of a game to get behind your team.
Now, there is no such thing as stirrups, pants are so long that they tuck them into their $1,000 customized monogramed cleats. No curves on hats, wearing them off centre with gangbanger bandannas underneath instead, and making millions of dollars for a game they once loved. Now they just see the ballfield as the office in order to pay for their 3 wives and child support and grab the fame while they can before they live life after baseball.
Steroids have ruined the image of the sport and quite honestly, I don't think anyone even cares anymore. I know more people who would much rather watch soccer than baseball these days and that could NEVER have been said before.
So, I've realized that baseball will never mean baseball anymore. It used to be a treat to go to the ballfield with some corn, peanuts and some cokes and bask in the sun while chanting "hey batter, batter, batter" for 9 glorious innings.
The smell of the grass in the ballpark has been replaced with artificial turf, and corporate thugs who don't care anymore. They have ripped a piece of that little boy's heart out and replaced it with business.
And then they wonder why kids grow up so fast these days....