Forget the alert on your iCal. To hell with the buds of green sprouting on the branches outside your window. It isn’t really springtime until legendary announcer Vin Scully utters, on opening day of the new season, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!”
Alas, Vin retired last fall after a 67-year run, ending one of the great rites of spring. I can’t blame him, though; he’s more than earned his retirement. There isn’t a person in the world that doesn’t wish him a long and happy ride into the sunset. Life, meanwhile, goes on. Spring came just the same. So did baseball season.
I have a special fondness for spring. It is the season of my birthday, which evokes all those happy associations from childhood—not just the parties and presents, but emerging from the long winter frost to be tempted back to the streets by the perfume of blooming flowers, the petrichor of rain-slick pavement, the gentle, pre-summer warmth coming back around for a long overdue visit. Nothing, however, heralds the season for me so resoundingly as the resumption of Major League Baseball.
This has not always been the case. Truth be told, baseball is a fairly recent personal pastime of mine. My wife is the real sports nut in the family, having grown up only blocks from Shea Stadium as a card-carrying—and long-suffering—Mets fan. I was raised in the Bronx, right up the Deegan from Yankee Stadium, though it’s probably for the best I was never much of a baseball enthusiast, and certainly not a Yankees fan, otherwise our two-decade romance might have proven too star-crossed to survive one of the great New York rivalries. Given how resolute (to put it diplomatically) team loyalties can be, it was fortunate I was decidedly nonpartisan.
I guess you could say I discovered the pleasures of baseball the really old-fashioned way—by sitting in the stands and watching the games. And that only happened here in L.A. Through her work, my wife regularly receives Dugout Club tickets to Dodger Stadium—those fully catered VIP seats right behind home plate. (Yes—they’re as fantastic as you might think.) I’ll admit I initially went along for the all-you-can-eat Dodger Dogs, but, somewhere along the way, I learned the game—and got invested in it. That’s the thing about baseball, after all: For three-plus hours, you have nothing to do but sit and watch (once you’ve reached your gastrointestinal limitations from the buffet, that is), so eventually you’re left with little choice but to start paying attention. Baseball doesn’t wow you into engagement so much as lull you into complacency. But more on that point shortly.