After months and months of anticipation, one of America’s greatest institutions has finally returned: The federal tax return deadline.
Fortunately, though, so has the sport of baseball.
For as long as there have been balls, bases, and other pieces of equipment that could be used by men to play a game and construct sexual metaphors, baseball has been firmly woven into the patriotic fabric of American life.
What once started out as a rural pastime (because things like reality TV and cars had yet to be invented) is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
For Major League Baseball fans in the Pacific Northwest, there is a palpable excitement in the air. This is because our beloved Seattle Mariners — who haven’t made the playoffs since the last ‘N Sync album came out — are currently first in the American League West Division.
The Mariners’ roster was bolstered by a slew of off-season trade moves, including dealing away the Mariner Moose to the newly-named Miami Marlins in exchange for their mascot, Billy the Marlin.
Sadly, Billy’s tenure in Seattle lasted only a few days, his life and legacy cut short when he wandered into the Pike Place Fish Market.
Nonetheless, the M’s are armed with new talents and a new team slogan (“We really promise not to suck this year”), and industry experts are confident they can make it to early August before being officially eliminated from playoff contention.
For many men including myself, baseball is an important part of our lives due to the critical role it has played in our childhoods.
After all, the memories of playing catch with your father in the front yard — learning an impractical yet fun skill, forging a genuine bond with dad, accidentally clobbering him in the groin with an unsuspecting fastball — are not easily forgotten (especially by dad, who went out and bought a cup in order to prevent another “mishap”).
I can fondly recall my days of youth back in the mid-90s.
When spring rolled around, I’d stock up on Big League Chew, put on my white tights, grab a glove that was too big for my hands and stride out onto a sun-soaked field as part of a Boys & Girls Club baseball team.
These teams were always sponsored by various county businesses. Whenever we played a team from Lynden, the local Dutch community, you’d never have to ask where they were from because they’d be sponsored by some law firm with a name like Ypma-Snapper-Shuler-Bajema.
I don’t honestly recall much about my playing stats, which — as any diehard baseball nut knows — are a necessary component of true fandom. If you can’t tell someone else the on-base percentage of every player on the Mariners’ 1984 batting order during night games in the month of May, then your fanhood is questionable.
Anyway, I truly enjoyed my brief career as a ball player, mostly because I never did that much.
Usually an average game consisted of me standing in right field until I got bored and started picking grass. Then the hollow thwack of the aluminum bat would sound and suddenly a round missile would be headed right towards me.
In a mind-numbing panic, I would frantically scramble to scoop up the ball, and as parents and coaches yelled at me, I would confusedly try to figure out where I was supposed to throw it. Most of the time it ended up in the right place. I think.
Of course, I wasn’t much better as a hitter, either. During one particularly difficult plate appearance, I grew more and more frustrated at my inability to connect with a pitch.
Finally, the coaches finally decided to do the unthinkable: they injected me with steroids.
What they did is bring out the tee—that embarrassing symbol of my inferiority as a hitter. Finally, I made contact and made the dejected jog to first base.
Of course, what I remember most about my youth baseball experience is my dugout demeanor, which was characterized by my attempts to imitate Mariners’ broadcaster Rick Rizzs.
I would closely watch the game through the dugout’s chain-link fence and, in a rather hyper manner, rattle off phrases like “the wind up and the pitch on the way…,” “that one’s hit to deep left-center field,” and “just a little bit outside!”
Then the other players would look at me and wonder how many juice boxes my mom had let me consume before driving me to the ballpark.
And so, on warm spring days when I should be studying, I’m often reminded of these fond memories.
It was a time when life was simpler, when the scores didn’t matter and when nobody on the team cared about the scores anyway because, win or lose, we’d all been promised pizza.