B Is For Baseball

The Entrance of Whataburger FieldI like baseball. A lot. But I didn’t always. I played it when I was a kid and I was terrible. I partly blame this on everyone not having realized I needed glasses until 4th grade. But I have to accept that I have exactly one iota of athletic ability in my body and it is spent making sure I recover well from trips, slips, and falls. Anyway, I was a terrible player as a kid and didn’t find much fun or interesting about the game. The coach of my little league team was a jackass of a man whose sun was the budding superstar. The rest of us kids were only there because it was technically impossible for K. to play all nine positions on the field simultaneously.

Despite my own personal issues with the playing of the game, I’ve always been drawn to it mentally. Even when I sucked I wanted to follow how my hometown Rangers were doing – from an academic standpoint if nothing else. I didn’t often understand the game (and had no one around who did from which to learn), so my knowledge grew by fits and starts. From time to time I would get distracted by other things (rock & roll, girls, and booze, mostly) and not pay attention to the sporting world. But at the same time I kept being drawn back: here by the suggestion that Jack Kerouac was a huge baseball fan, there by some strange roommates who watched the game obsessively, and so on.

When I lived in Houston I went to several games at the Astrodome and kept up with the Astros. I learned to hate the Braves. I developed a fondness for a couple of players whose last names started with “B.” And I watched as yet another hometown Texas team just didn’t quite have what it took to succeed. Then I moved back to Austin and, bereft of a major league team and again distracted by booze & girls, my attention slid.

Fast forward to 2004, which finds me married to a woman who has also liked baseball off-and-on throughout her life. Sure, she grew up in New York with Yankees fans for grandparents. Sure she got drawn into the fascinating world of Orioles baseball by an earlier boyfriend. I can let these things slide. Because her love of baseball and my love of baseball resurfaced at approximately the same time, and have fed on each other for 7 years now. She can’t quite get into the (dis)Astros – though she did pull for them along with me during that last golden age in ’05 & ’06 – but she’s totally on board with the Rangers. We also watch the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners quite a bit, in part because west coast baseball fits our schedules better. The Dodgers, of course, have Vin Scully, which means more than any star player or feisty manager. And the Mariners have Ichiro (’nuff said).

Baseball, like Annie Savoy says in Bull Durham, is for me “the only church that truly feeds the soul.” And since the 2011 season just got underway, I’m back at the altar nightly. Go Dodgers! Go Rangers! And try not to make me cry, Astros & Mariners. Also, watch out for the once great Kansas City Royals. They’re finally on to something again.

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