Rendezvous

“I have a rendezvous with life.” Counter Cullen, 20th century, American poet. I like the synonym engagement for that long term of French origin with that silent “z.”

Life is such a grand gift. Sometimes, there are moments we will never, ever forget.

The moment of engagement to Kristine so raised my spirits, uplifting my life. It led to our rendezvous with our two wonderful children, their captivating spouses, and our grandsons.

As an athlete, I just edged into the middle of the pack. So, two, and only two, events stand out. The only triple I ever knocked, which, incidentally, broke up a little league no-hitter, was an unforgettable engagement between bat and ball. The same was true of my only running, one-handed backhand down the line ever. It was in a singles match in 1974. How did the shot ever happen?

Ah, those unique moments rising well above the mundane. They are gifts from God for each of us in this short, beautiful life.

Baseball’s National League West is Heating Up

The Padre-Dodger rivalry began anew last night. It drew the largest crowd of the year in the Padres’ Petco Park.

The Friars had beaten LA in last year’s playoffs without Fernando Tatis and Xander Bogaerts two of the finest hitters in baseball. San Diego won it’s fourth straight game against LA, 5-2, including those playoffs.

Xander had two walks and an RBI. Tatis, for the second time in the last two years homered twice against Clayton Kershaw, the pride of the Dodgers pitching staff. No one has ever done that. But, that’s the man we call El Nino.

Rings a Bell

Last night I watched the Cincinnati Reds play the San Diego Padres in the second game of their series. I recognized David Bell, the 50-year-old manager of the Reds.

I started following baseball in 1955, at which time I lived in Dayton, Ohio as a fan of the Cincinnati Reds. The radio voice of the Reds was Wait Hoyt, who had pitched for the renowned 1927 Yankees and had been a close friend of Babe Ruth.

In the fifties, the Reds excellent outfield included a man named Gus Bell, the late grandfather of David Bell. I also later watched Buddy Bell, David’s father, play Major League ball.

It occurred to me, by gosh, I must be getting old.

It’s Not Just A Game

What is it about baseball that seems to entice fans all over the planet? For me a part of it is having played the sport for several years as a kid appreciating the difficulty of hitting a baseball and keeping my nerves under control. It was a thrill at 12 to get a hit or field and throw a ground ball cleanly as fans enjoyed the game.

Now, to watch these rare 2000 Major League ballplayers play at their level is a real treat for me. I think to those who have never played it is all the clever options available to the pitchers and the extraordinary feat of getting a hit despite the odds, 3 to 1 at best.

If you have never watched a game, live or virtually, you are in for a treat, if you do. Mighty Casey only occasionally strikes out.

The Smooth Water and Bright skies

How fortunate I was at 15 to have a fifteen-foot ski boat with a 35-horsepower Mercury engine. We lived along a canal in Miami that led to Biscayne Bay, the 79th Street causeway, and its boat docking venue, Pelican Harbor where I gassed up as necessary. What a grand joy for an adolescent.

My friends and I would go water skiing and the smoother the water, the better the skiing. Being out on the water on the slalom ski I made in shop on a bright, sunny, windless day was heaven to this teenager. I would move laterally back and forth as one slalomed on snow throwing up a high rooster tail of water behind the ski. I’d jump the two wakes with all the strength my young legs could muster. Pure joy.

Now in the winter of my days with a back too tweaky to ski, they sure are sweet memories. Dear, dear Lord, thanks for the memories.

But it’s not only a game

“I have no television – I hate it.” Patricia Highsmith, the late American novelist.

No t.v.? These digital, heavily pixelated, large screen contraptions can carry you almost there.

For a great, major league baseball game you get to miss traffic, overpriced food and your distance from home plate.

You gain the comfort of your home, the potential for delightful commentary and the nearness of your refrigerator.

Wow, and it all starts this Thursday, opening day.

And So It Begins

The baseball season is about to begin at the end of March. The sawdust, the favorite fielders’ gloves, the mighty bats, the camaraderie, and this year, a lot of new rules.

It’s the coming of spring. So far, for those of us who are Padre fans, it’s only the Cactus League that plays all over Arizona, spring training. Our team plays in the small hamlet of Peoria.

But, as has been suggested, the fans attending this year have something akin to Beatlemania, given the tremendous team the Padres are bringing to the field.

I have followed baseball long enough to know that just talent won’t do it. You need that team camaraderie. You need good health. You need consistency under pressure. That’s why they play the game we love.

A Frightening Moment

This past Monday evening I was watching Monday Night Football involving the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. I saw something I had never seen on a football field in the 65 years since I’ve been watching the pro game.

I had watched Monday Night Football since its inception and at times it was even quite comedic with Alex Karras, the ex-professional lineman rendering some wonderful one-liners. What I saw was 180° from listening to the occasionally comedic Karras broadcast.

A 24 year-old excellent safety playing for the Buffalo Bills, Damar Hamlin, tackled the Bengals’ receiver and stood up. At that point he fell like a floppy doll and hit the turf. His heart stopped and required CPR.There is no question that was the saddest moment I have ever seen on a football field.

On Thursday, he was in critical condition and communicated in writing as his breathing tube precluded speaking. Hopefully he will completely recover between his hospitalization and rehab.

It seems that something has to be done that can be more effective at minimizing severe injuries on a football field. To me great teams aren’t necessarily violent. I am hopeful creative  thinkers and quality research can provide the answers to the serious injuries experienced in American, professional football.

Homebody You Say?

“‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Jane Austen, the 19th-century English novelist. Oh yes. 

The home was a mixed blessing when I was a kid. My mom was nurturing and my father was difficult. It thrilled me to leave for school at eighteen. 

Our house is where we have lived, thank God, for almost thirty years. It has my loving, artistic spouse’s touch. Those touches have given me peace, as have her paintings. Our dwellingplace is where I can awaken, have breakfast, read, write, and experience Kris’ company in the quiet tranquility of the indoors.

It’s no accident that small, romantic, non-epic films are now very hard to sell at the box office. We have high definition, large, crystal clear screens with soundboards with which to enjoy the personal. They have added to the comfort of our era. That change is part of what the Pandemic has done to our culture.

I was thrilled when the San Diego Chargers’ moved to L.A. I could avoid traffic, boisterous crowds, and local television blackouts for non-sellouts. I could gain well-informed, former quarterbacks to explain what was really going on.

It’s even better now at home than in Austen’s 19th century. Good thought, Jane.

The Batty Bat Borer

“White ash trees provided the lumber for Major League Baseball’s bats for more than 100 years. The emerald ash borer is destroying the trees at places like the Round Valley Recreation Area in Clinton Township, N.J.” Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times. And remarkably, 193 readers commented on the article electronically.

I have followed baseball for 67 years. In the last few years I have been bombarded by highly sophisticated stats, questions posed to general managers that we all knew they would not answer and now the ultimate boring (via the borer, pun intended) detail, maple in the new bats instead of the ash of the last 100 years.

The American league home run record in a season was broken in 1961 with ash and again in 2022 with maple. Who cares? At least the public commenters above.

How can a sport this fascinating go over the top in the short course of my non-maple lifetime. I thought maple was for floors and furniture. The sportswriters and naturalists are batting me away from my favorite sport.