An ongoing dialogue on HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases,
March 26th, 2020
No Opening Day … Yet
My memories of spring have always included baseball.
I worshiped my older brother Ben — he’s still pretty great — and he loved baseball. So as the days in March shifted from cold and dark to slightly less cold and much less dark, the game he played so brilliantly with his friends pulled me in. I was hooked.
I became so obsessed with baseball that my mother recalls hearing me talk about it in lengthy, excruciating detail — our “conversations” became tedious enough that she would intermittently say “yes” or “mmm” or “wow” just to pretend she was actually listening.
(Mom, all is forgiven.)
When the warm weather truly kicked in, I played various pick-up games pretty much every day — stickball, fungo, softball, Whiffle ball, some rubber-covered indestructible ball that had the same size and weight as a baseball, but survived concrete and pavement. We made up rules since we never had full teams.
No hitting to right field. No walks. No base running — played with “imaginary” runners on base. A cleanly-fielded grounder was an out since no one played first. A ball in the trees was a home run. Over the trees was a Grand Slam, even if no one was on base.
The rectangle-shaped strike zone painted on the school brick wall would have to suffice for every player — didn’t matter if you were Jose Altuve- or Aaron Judge-sized.
Also, there was Little League, then baseball for my school teams. Take a look at that keystone combo in the photo!
Meanwhile, I read everything I could about the sport — its rich history, the great players and the teams, the remarkable games, the endless statistics. A memorable (to me) 4th grade class presentation on Ty Cobb consisted of my listing, with astonishment, his stratospheric batting averages each year:
“… .382, .419, .409, .389 … .383, .382, .384 … .389, .401!”
Now that was an exciting report. One of my classmates bluntly told me afterwards she’d never heard anything so boring in her life.
Today was supposed to be Opening Day for the 2020 baseball season.
But COVID-19 had other ideas, halting Spring Training and delaying the start of the season until who knows when.
“You don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline,” says the wise Dr. Fauci. This version of how long we’ll be dealing with COVID-19 strikes me as much more grounded in science than Mark Cuban’s.
As a result, while usually we cue up this brilliant passage about baseball from Bart Giamatti at the end of the season, how about now?
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.
“Play ball!” can’t come soon enough.