But every year, right around this time, we have opening day. All teams are in the hunt, at least in theory. And for every player, there's the real possibility that this year might lead to an all-star appearance, or better, a World Series championship. For me, the start of baseball coincides with another season I hold dear - enhanced communication season with my uncle.
If there's such thing as a baseball lover, it's him. Raised on the Big Red Machine, he learned to love baseball watching the likes of Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Peter Edward Rose. As a kid, he engaged in an American, teenage pastime - pouring over stats as published in USA Today. He'd watch the game of the week that played each weekend, and in an age where information was far more limited, he developed a cache of baseball knowledge that was at once impressive and useful.
When I was a kid, we'd talk about players and teams. He'd impart some wisdom on pitching, and I'd ask questions about some anachronistic aspect of baseball history. When I got old enough, he'd take me to games. We'd regularly go and see Orlando Hudson, my favorite player and the hero of our hometown. There, he'd buy me hats, hot dogs, and anything else that might make the experience a bit better for a young man.
It was during these experiences that I fell in love with the game. He was sharp and prepared, buying tickets behind the plate when the game features a matchup between impressive pitchers. He'd point out the little things, like why a center fielder played a few steps to the left or right.
Once, we took a trip to Cincinnati, and it was there that he saw his Reds play in that city for the first time. We toured the Great American Ballpark, and on that trip, he was a bit like a little kid. Imagine following a team for many decades and then finally seeing them up close. We saw the Reds Hall of Fame, and we watched Scott Hatteberg - of Moneyball fame - pound a fastball over the wall in right field. His Reds swept my Diamondbacks in the three-game set, but we both left that weekend happy. For me, it was yet another opportunity to tap into a well of knowledge that I've been blessed to know.
On that trip, we talked about all the teams, and as I went through each one, he'd give me a distinct reason why it was alright to hate that team. Until we got to Philly, a team he said was alright because they'd entertained Pete Rose during the late parts of his career.
With yet another baseball season here, I'll be gearing up for six straight months of day-long fun. There will be nights spent watching Felix Hernandez duel some undermatched American League team. There will be plenty of days spent wishing my New York Mets were just a little bit better. There might be days when the wind will blow out at Wrigley Field, and I'm certain that Tampa will find more pitchers that you've never heard of.
More than anything, I'll remember my uncle and give thanks for a love affair with baseball that he sparked some time ago. It's been written, of course, that nothing's as good as something shared with someone else. And that's true of one great uncle: my encyclopedia, my sounding board, and my friend.