It’s happening again, as it does every year.
Luckily, it’s late February. So I should be able to get this cleared up in no time.
Renewing my subscription to the priceless (I wish) MLB.TV? Check. Gearing up for (and way, way over) Saturday’s Spring Training openers? Check. Refreshing the Dodger website every couple of hours just in case something happens? Check. Taking a legitimate interest in non-roster invitees and agonizing over who will fill out Slots #24 and #25 on the Active Roster? Check. Geeking out over the way LA’s new owners (Guggenheim Partners) signaled their commitment to Dodger fans by welcoming Sandy Koufax back into the fold? Double-check.
Listening to Ernie Harwell’s spine-tingling “Baseball” speech as often as humanly possible? Check∞.[audio:http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/summathissummathat/files/2013/02/ErnieHarwell.mp3]
This year, as I reflected on the annual resurrection of The Only Sport I Cannot Bear To Lose and performed my preparatory rituals, I was struck by how often Spring Training and Lent overlap. And how fittingly.
Both are seasons of whipping oneself into shape; of learning and of polishing, of drills and disciplines; of waiting in joyful hope. (Well, mostly hopeful. Sorry, Kansas City and Pittsburgh. But there’s redemption in long-suffering, as well, remember?)
The eager anticipation and the “clean slate” are key elements in both spiritual and baseball Springtimes — “No World Series ring since 1988? No problem, LA. This is our year!” — and there are few things more invigorating than being able to say “Remember last year, with all its early promise and its decidedly mixed bag of successes and failures? It’s in the past. Thank God for do-overs!”
For me, Spring Training is more than just a game; it’s a reminder — a microcosm of my own unrelenting need for self-perfection, and an invitation to once again embrace that long, arduous journey towards the finish line that I must undertake this spring. This year. This lifetime.
A man screaming “for the love of God” in the stands of Fenway Park made perfect and sympathetic sense to my son and me, because baseball may be a mere game, but it is one that relates to the continual process of the life of faith—a life of swings and misses, stupid errors, the clutch of despair, the release, the trust, the clockless innings of new chances that stretch out before us, endlessly, and so full of promise.
It breaks your heart, but it leaves you wanting more; it roars into spring, slips us through summer and delivers us, tired but still game, into autumn, and then we lie fallow—waiting in joyful hope.
Attribution(s): “Lonely Baseball” provided by Shutterstock.