108 Stitches

The promise of a new baseball season is upon us. All things are possible now. In Toronto, we are wild with excitement: R.J. Dickie, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, the whole darn gang are just so full of potential. Surely, we are contenders.  But win or lose, watching these million dollar players bounce around the Rogers Centre will be a wonder to behold even as baseball savant, Alex Anthopoulos, works it all out on paper.

And after a winter of snow squalls, freezing temperatures, the Norwalk virus and a run of the mill head cold that just won’t quit, this baseball fan is looking to be born again, resurrected upon the wings of the boys of summer. The line of a pitch, the crack of the bat, the thump, thump of a double play, the oooohh of the crowd as the ball heads towards the outfield wall, not yet deemed fair or foul. One’s heart aches for it, doesn’t it?

More than any other major league sport, baseball appeals to the female soul. According to ESPN, 46% of major league baseball fans are women — almost half, compared to 35% for major league hockey, for example.

A fellow baseball fan and my friend, Mary Jane Wood, says she’s pumped about the Blue Jays this year.

“I’m so excited about the upcoming season because of the new lineup! I can’t wait for tonight’s game,” she said. “I’ve been reading all the baseball columns in the Globe and Mail and the Star to get the lowdown on the new players.

“I’m especially excited about R.J. Dickey and Jose Reyes.

“The only sad note is that Ricky Romero didn’t make it,” she told me in an email, referring to the Jays pitcher getting optioned to Dunedin. “Poor guy.”

Like men, women come to the game in many ways. Some know the middle name of every player on the home team, but couldn’t name a player in the opposing team. Some are interested in the business of sport, the trades, the salaries, the marketing. Some follow sport-transcending players like a Joe Namath or a Wayne Gretzky. Some, like me, enjoy the numbers, the mythology and the friendly pace of the game.

Baseball is a companion throughout the many phases of one’s life. As you’re washing up a few dishes after supper, the radio announcers share their smart patter with a mix of game details, and player stories and statistics, like so many recipe cards.  Each player has his own ingredients, making the outcome reasonably predictable, but not always.

When children came into the picture, the arrival of baseball season was an early sign the school year would soon be mercifully over.  Worn out lunches boxes, the anxiety of getting the kids to school on time and the torture of homework would be soon wiped away. Hooray!

I have fond personal memories of having just arrived in Toronto and being one among a gang of young men and women, happy to sit in a $4 bleacher seat at Exhibition Stadium. Our lives, like the beginning of a baseball season, were full of potential and sunny days, as we studied the science of baseball as fervently as we did the politics of the day.

My friend, Mary Jane, remembers also the good old days too.

“When the Blue Jays were in the World Series I was going crazy. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. I couldn’t sit still and watch the game. I had to pace around I was so nervous!  I lived in Florida with my family from 1988–1997. I missed Toronto and the Blue Jays so much.  In the fall of 1993, I had to go to New Orleans for an conference right in the middle of the World Series. I watched games in my hotel room, but the night of game six, I was at a colleague’s house with others from the conference. I had to ask them if they would please put the the baseball game on the TV. So I saw Joe Carter’s home run! OMG. That was amazing, but I was still so jealous of people who were actually at the game!

“A couple of years later, Joe Carter came to a sports store in Fort Lauderdale to sign autographs and my whole family went– my husband, my daughter and two sons. That ball is still in a special spot.”

Winning in baseball is, of course, also part of the charm.

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