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Baseball is a game designed for the intellectuals. There's a certain power in the numbers as they bleed from boxscores. And there's a peculiar beauty in the stories of players old and new, told by fans old and new. At times, the game is cruel, as the sheer enormousness of its schedule breeds in fans contempt for players, love for moments, and a sort of resignation that can only be understood by a fan of the Kansas City Royals.

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.

Originally posted to Coby DuBose on Criminal Injustice, Race, and Poverty on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 09:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Genealogy and Family History Community and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Love this! (12+ / 0-)

    Through the 70s and 80s, my father held Astro season tickets. We spent so much quality time watching games in the Astrodome.

    Raised on the Big Red Machine, he learned to love baseball watching the likes of Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Peter Edward Rose.
    Your uncle and I must be around the same age. These are the players I watched play against Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedano, and Jose Cruz.
    •  Speaking of our Astros . . . . (0+ / 0-)

      All the way home from work on Monday, my radio guys kept telling me to immediately pull up the AL stats and print them out because the 'Stros were in first place in practically every category (only one AL game was complete and we had won it).  This lead to a hilarious conversation about how silly we were to be worried about moving to the AL; it's gonna be a breeze.  Ha!  I just hope we don't lose a hundred before August 1.  

  •  Happy Groundskeeper's Day! (8+ / 0-)

    When the head of the grounds crew comes out of the dugout: if he sees his shadow, six more months of baseball.  

    I've been living for this.

    Though I don't expect much from the Mets this year.  They traded their ace for... nothing much, and Santana is starting the season with shoulder surgery.  That front office totally baffles me.  Still, I'll be rooting.

    "Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor's mailbox." -- Willie Stargell

    by Yasuragi on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 03:53:24 AM PDT

    •  Have faith (7+ / 0-)

      Your humble diarist has been in that front office (a few summers ago, I worked on the baseball side for the Mets).

      Dickey was dealt, and that's sad, but the return will pay dividends. We got back a Major League quality catcher (D'Arnaud) and a pitcher who will has ace upside (Noah Snydergaard). This front office is building something very sustainable from the inside, mostly because it's focused on acquiring young pitching.

      At the very least, I can say that the front office, when compared to others around baseball, is full of very smart people. I'm biased, of course, but there's reason to have some faith in the future of this club. We must pray that the young arms (specifically Harvey and Wheeler) avoid injury and live up to their billing. And we must pray for luck. Lots of it.

      LET'S GO METS.

      "I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil." ~Bobby Kennedy

      by Grizzard on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 05:55:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Okay, Grizz -- taking your word for it. (5+ / 0-)

        Just feels like, over the past decade or so, they've consistently made the best deal of five years ago... trading young talent for a player at the far end of his career who's far too likely to break down.

        Or, on the other side of the issue, trading those veteran players who kept their younger teammates grounded and with their heads in the game.  (Delgado comes to mind.)

        I keep bitching that they need to go back to what won us the '86 Series (as well as the approaches to it in '84-'85): a good home-grown team mixed with some outstanding veterans.   Lately it hasn't seemed like the team was moving that way.

        But since reading your work I've decided I'd trust you with my life... which pretty much goes hand-in-hand with trusting you on baseball.  So I will have faith.  Hope, even.

        Thanks, Grizzard -- and yes, Let's Go Mets!

        "Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor's mailbox." -- Willie Stargell

        by Yasuragi on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 06:30:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yas, hope springs eternal---maybe Wright has that (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Livvy5, Senor Unoball, BachFan, Yasuragi

      MVP year---and they discover a new solid pitcher......

      •  Stolen two bases so far today -- off to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Senor Unoball

        a better start than I expected.

        They're looking nice today -- just as Grizzard predicted, and far more so than they did in Spring Training (which is never a good yardstick for how the season will go).

        How are you, Phil?  I miss your adorable face.  :)  Any hope -- any hope at all -- that you and gc2 will get down here before you head south?

        "Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor's mailbox." -- Willie Stargell

        by Yasuragi on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 11:24:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nice remebrance of those days with days with your (8+ / 0-)

    uncle; and may there many more of them.

    Remember the real treat for him, is having you with him to enjoy what he is enjoying.

    My greatest memory is taking my Dad to a World Series game in Fenway in '86  (yeah, Yas, your Mets...)---he was as excited for me, as I was for him.

    it still is the Greatest Game!!!!

    (Go Cubs)

  •  Well, Grizz (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phil S 33, Senor Unoball, BachFan, cosette

    Any words of encouragement for long suffering Marlins fans? (Probably not.) We're dying down here in Miami.

    •  Until Loria goes---you have little chanece...IMO. (3+ / 0-)
    •  As a Mets fan (4+ / 0-)

      I wish nothing but the worst on Miami.

      With that said, the Marlins haven't been all that bad over the last 15 years. It's been a roller coaster ride, but they have won 2 World Series titles and they've been far and away the most efficient team on a dollar/win basis (right there with Tampa Bay).

      The problem is that ownership has torn things down TOO quickly after the good runs. It's one thing to tear it down and rebuild after winning, but it's another thing to tear down the club before the fans have a chance to truly enjoy the championship. It's like grabbing the ice cream cone when it still has some left. The kid forgets how good the ice cream cone was and only remembers having it stripped from him too soon.

      "I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil." ~Bobby Kennedy

      by Grizzard on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 08:50:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Understood (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Senor Unoball

        regarding the first sentence of your response. I would expect nothing less from a fan of a rival team.

        And I agree with your analysis of how Miami ownership has handled the team after good runs. I have been fortunate to participate in those good runs in person as a season ticket holder (both 1997 and 2003).

        But I guess what I am looking for is a ray of hope regarding the team as it is constituted now. Do you think Miami got any decent prospects in return for its recent unloading of most of its name players? Do we have anything to look forward to down here other than simply hoping ownership will sell the team and go away? We enjoy watching Stanton play but he can't carry the whole team, and we expect he will be gone before too long as well once he gets expensive.

        •  I wasn't thrilled (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Senor Unoball, suesue

          about the haul Miami got back on its recent rash of deals. They have done a good job in the past of picking up big time prospects in their deals, but my judgement is that this did not happen this time.

          It appears to me that Loria is dipping his hands in the baseball ops stuff more than he has done in the past. That can get messy.

          "I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil." ~Bobby Kennedy

          by Grizzard on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 11:25:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  King Felix!!! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, BachFan, bleeding blue

    Nice mention.

  •  Haven't been to a game in awhile (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Senor Unoball, BachFan, Loonesta

    but I still get inexplicable longings around this time every year (and have been known to pull out my glove and mink oil each spring even if there's no one to throw it around with). My greatest baseball memories: Watching Mickey Mantle and the Yankees in Comiskey Park in 1961, though it was Moose Skowron who hit a home run for the Yanks and not Mantle or Maris (later in the decade got to see Skowron play for the Sox); seeing Roberto Clemente gun down a runner at home from deep right field at Wrigley in the late sixties; watching an otherwise injured Nolan Ryan with the Angels desimate the Sox at home in a night game in the late 70s (and yes, his fastball was basically invisible, though he left in the 6th or 7th inning in pain); seeing Willie Mays in one of his last at bats with the Mets in '73. He struck out but it was still one of the most amazing at bats I ever saw. Thanks for bringing up baseball, Grizz. Probably won't get much work done today.

    I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake. ― Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

    by dannyboy1 on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 09:04:32 AM PDT

  •  How many ballgloves are in your closet? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Cool story from ABC today.

    I think I've got two gloves in the closet. Nothing old or rare, just a couple I had when I played company softball a few years ago.

  •  Grandpa Nielsen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, cosette

    I learned about baseball from my Mom, who was a big fan.

    I have memories of her father taking me, as a little kid visiting on summer vacation, to see the Kansas City A's. We'd take the bus and oh, what a great time it was, going to a ballgame with Grandpa!

    But yes, it was the KC A's, before they moved to Oakland.

    When they did that, we all went from love of the franchise to hatred. Especially a few years later when the Oakland A's were winning pennants.

    And which is why, when I moved to the SF Bay area, I became a Giants' fan. I just could never, even these many years later, become a fan of the Oakland A's.

  •  reposted to gfhc (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, Senor Unoball, cosette

    Makes a good companion piece to our open thread diary from last  friday

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:28:36 AM PDT

  •  My dad passed to me his love for baseball (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan who never forgave that franchise for moving to the west coast.  He was an immediate Mets fans, and I was raised in that environment.

    He did hate one thing in baseball more than the LA Dodgers, however - the intentional walk.  I recall him grousing one game when the Mets' pitcher walked the Phillies #8 batter to load the bases for Wayne Twitchell.  "I hope he hits a homer" said dad.  "But dad, that would put the game out of reach for us!" I protested.  "I hope he hits a homer" said dad.

    And Wayne Twitchell hit the grand slam...

    My dad must have seen over 100 Met games in his life, and never saw them win a game in person.  We saw Tom Seaver pitch against the Padres in 1975, while Seaver was on the way to a Cy Young award, and was something like 18-1 in his career against San Diego.  The Mets, and Seaver, lost.

    And of course, the first time I went to Shea Stadium to see the Mets play without my dad, Mike Scott threw a 4 or 5 hit shutout for the Mets (before he made it big for the Astros).

    I moved to Tampa in 1997, the year before the Rays (then Devil Rays) started, and was an original fan - I've followed them with the same passion as my dad had for the Mets (and I once had for that franchise).  Yes, Grizzard, the Rays will probably have success with a couple new pitchers this season that you've never heard of. :-)  I was a little put off that I have to wait for tomorrow for my team's opening day, but...

    While many of you fans happily say "only 161 more to go!", I can still say "there's only 162 more to go!".  Until about this time tomorrow!

    •  I hate the IBB, too.... (0+ / 0-)

      And I'm a Giants fan. All those intentional walks to Barry Bonds.... They led to runs and wins. I get that, but I want that confrontation.

      BTW, I think it's great that you're a Rays fan. An organization that good deserves good fans. People talk shit about the stadium, but the way I see it, it's a major league baseball game. There's no possible way the dome could be THAT bad.

      Yes, Grizzard, the Rays will probably have success with a couple new pitchers this season that you've never heard of. :-)  
      I love watching new, young players come up and try to make their mark on the game. Makes me feel old at 30, but oh well.
  •  Great diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I still remember my first trip to St. Louis to see the Cubs and the Cards!  The Cubs lost but we saw Ron Santo in the parking garage after the game.  What a memory!

    "The work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on." Ted Kennedy 2008

    by rscopes on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 04:52:06 PM PDT

  •  I worked in Kenmore Square... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...for ten years in the late 80s - 90s.  Literally across the street from Fenway Park.

    Great fun - even in those days, the gameday atmosphere was electric.  Every couple of weeks, we'd get some guys together and go buy bleacher seats and head over after work.  (Remember when you could do that?)

    It's a long-distant memory now...but the only two days of the year I truly miss it are Opening Day and Marathon Monday, which is another plane of existence entirely.

    Baseball was, is, and always will be.

    I prefer to remain an enigma.

    by TriSec on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 06:04:11 PM PDT

  •  I've tried commenting on this a couple of times... (3+ / 0-)

    But scrapped them. It's highly personal for me, as I imagine it is for others here. So I appreciate the diary.

    Opening Day means a lot to me. Baseball means a lot to me. Not just the game itself, which is wonderful. Not just the two WS championships for this SFG fan. All those things are awesome and part of the reason I love the game. But the family bonds... Baseball unites people in ways few things can. My Grandmother was a die-hard Giants fan. She moved to Oakland with my Grandfather in 1953, and the Giants moving to SF in 1958 was a big deal. She got to see them finally win one in SF. Unfortunately, she passed about 2 months before they won their second. I wish she'd been able to see it. I wish she wasn't gone.

    I don't know. I'm struggling to articulate what I mean without getting too personal. All I know is Giants-Dodgers was appointment TV for me today, like Opening Day is every year. The Giants lost. Kershaw is good. There's been roughly 130 opening days for the Giants franchise. I hope there's at least 130 more.

    •  I hear you, SixSixSix. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I learned to love baseball through a beloved.  Watching and learning a game through the eyes and guidance of someone who lives and breathes it makes all the difference, for both really.  Somehow, the love of the game and the love for that person commingle in an almost indescribable, wonderful way. And every opening day, we get to relish those memories once again.

  •  Ah yes! Opening Day (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The joy of it all.  I recall my formative years in Forbes Field, watching Maz and Roberto and a young hard hitting left fielder who grew to become the heart and soul of the 1979 Buccos.  and spotting Bob Veale in the stands and getting him to sign my program in about 1965 or so.  Pinch hitter Gene Freese lived down the street in our humble suburban neighborhood, and transister radios broadcast every game (sometimes even in school, when we could get away with it.)  

    Fast forward to the '90's.  After the Sid Bream game things went bad, but we'd grasp onto any hint that it might be a memorable summer, perhaps a columnist would state that the Buccos 'had a chance to be pretty good' that year.  Through it all I'd attend games with my son, who was thrilled when Bob Walk stopped to sign his hat on the way to the bullpen for his pregame routine a few minutes before gametime.  Young Tom got to know and love the game as well, and last summer when they were in contention, we'd talk or text during or after every game to analyze or to vent.

    The Buccos do have a good chance to be in contention this year.  We have our own reasons to hate the Reds, Cardinals, and Brewers, and I'll be sharing each moment with my son.  Hope springs eternal!

    Play Ball!

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