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Batter up

Opening Day came very early this year, in March, and the cold of winter has lasted late into April.

But Major League Baseball has returned like like tulips.

Rogers Hornsby, Hall of Fame second baseman who played for a variety of teams including the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

This is the time of year when father, and sometimes grandfather, begin passing their knowledge of baseball to the next generation, ensuring the love of the game will live on for decades. First there’s teaching the proper technique of scoring, then it advances as the child grows older. Future talks range from everything from the fundamentals of laying down a good bunt, to when a hit-and-run is needed or a brush-back pitch is in order, and whether the designated hitter has helped or hurt the game?

Folks concerned about making baseball more like other sports are thinking of adding a clock. Being unbound by time is part of what makes baseball more than a game. it is what makes it a pastime.

This is a time of year, before mathematical elimination starts to creep into the brain, that hope flourishes and that maybe, just maybe, this will be the season that all the stars will align and a team, no matter what the expectations of the so-called experts, will rise to the top.

As Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell once noted, “Baseball? It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”

There have been many an argument over the game. Players and managers argue with the umpires about calls on the field, while those in the stands argue about who the best centerfielder or all time is, or who would you rather not face in the prime of their career – Cy Young or Nolan Ryan?

Yes, it’s just a game played by individuals who are well compensated for their talents. But baseball is much more than that.

In the movie “Field of Dreams, actor James Earl Jones in his portrayal of Terrance Mann said, “The one constant through all the years, 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. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”

But the game is played on many levels and just because Grant County is a drive of a few hours away from the closest Major League ballparks, there are many other opportunities within easy driving distance to enjoy the game. Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and South Bend all have Minor League baseball teams. Closer to home, local high schools are fielding teams. And Little League baseball will be starting soon.

Baseball is just one of the many signs that spring and warmth indeed has arrived and days made for watching nine innings of baseball have arrived.

“Play ball!”