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The only true sign of spring

Published: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 9:18 a.m. CDT

Forget the robin. Ignore the tulips. Do not let the Easter Bunny, hummingbirds or awakening bears hoodwink you.

The first baseball thrown in anger is the true harbinger of spring and calendar alarm for the lazy discard of the heavy encumbrances of winter.

Ditch the parka and pull out the windbreaker. Stash the boots and burn the long underwear. Trust me. Burn the long underwear.

Civilization dodged another bullet. The dragon once again neglected to eat the sun; the light is returning and summer has embarked on its lollygaggingly capricious path.

Barbecue grills are getting a good scrubbing. Complicated intra-family schedules are being ex- amined through molecular microscopes for reunion potentialities. Carnies are accidentally shearing the heads off of retaining bolts to the Whip-A-Whirl. All activities destined to be accompanied by the mantra of summer — a play-by-play broadcast on AM radio.

Opening Day is the true American holiday of renewal, showcasing that memorably mortal moment when anything’s possible. This IS next year. Second chances ARE real.

Welcome to zero, when every team has the same theoretical opportunity to make a run. Win a pennant. Stuff the 30 Flags trophy in a display case. Or just beat the Dodgers like a red-headed stepchild. Hope. Springs. Eternal. Not even the Cubbies have been mathematically eliminated yet. The Astros and Royals, maybe.

Baseball’s long-haul season is another of its peculiar charms. 162 games. An eight month long soap opera in cleats.

Plenty time enough for spectacular feats of athleticism, mythic comebacks, grandiose stumbles, the heroic shattering of records and an occasional ball bouncing off of a head over the fence. They call it the National Pastime, not the National Surgical Strike. And those who pay attention will see something every day that has never happened before. #snowflakes.

Baseball players are also easier to relate to as humans than other athletes. They are not augmented in outline by layers of armor plating. Nor are they freaks of nature towering above the populace like redwoods in a forest of pussy willows. Their job is to run and throw and swing a stick and catch a ball. “Hey. I can do that.” Just not as good.

Encounter one of the Boys of Summer on the street and you could mistake them for plumbers or lawyers or corporate event planners. Very buff plumbers and lawyers and corporate event planners, with forearms the size of telephone poles — but still.

Sure, some make fabulous money, but they seem more like blue-collar workers at heart. Golfers require absolute quiet while approaching a teed ball with a metal club, but in baseball, the batter is assaulted by shouts and jeers and the heckling of tiered multitudes in his quest to swing a wooden bat at a white sphere approaching 100 mph thrown not too distant from the vicinity of his head.

You can smell it in the air. The musty team t-shirts pulled from the backs of closets and bottoms of wardrobes. The roasting of foot-long bratwursts on an open grill behind third base. The toasting of the half-naked fans in the center-field bleachers. That odd, pungent odor emanating from the men’s room.

Baseball is back and all is right with the world. “Play Ball!” And Go Giants!

Copyright ©2013 Will Durst
Distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate.

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