The Ed Smith Sensation

 

In a recent trip to Sarasota, Florida, I visited The Ed Smith Stadium, the newly acquired spring training facility for the Baltimore Orioles. Actually, I broke into the stadium with my father, through an unlocked but chained gate entrance. Running through puddles in the cracked cement of an in-progress renovation job, ignorantly wearing sandals expecting a welcomed “nice day” as opposed to the New England blizzards, I felt, smelled, and tasted the baseball season. On every major league team website is a four day countdown to the spring training arrival of catchers and pitchers, but without a countdown, without an awareness of time or season, I walked through the door of baseball anticipation amidst a record breaking winter. For the first time in this decade, I am through worrying about the continuation of the steroid era. I am through worrying about the submergence of the Baltimore Orioles organization. I am through worrying about my heroes being taken out by Canseco cowards who flip the script on convention, and won’t go down themselves without the ship. Stepping through the bleacher caves and into the empty stadium, home to the Cincinnati Reds for the past ten years, I see now the Orioles “fun bird” logo freshly painted atop the home dugout, and the once red trim now orange, and on this day, drenched in a fresh Gulf shower, blistering sights and sounds of Spring emotion. There is a sensation that overwhelms me, coming only typically to me in the North East, some time between late March, and the first pitch on opening day. The sensation is a heightened remembrance; the nervous sun beaten black of a little league uniform, the unfamiliar feel of a cup or a new glove. (There no two things closer to a boy growing up than his dog and a brand new baseball glove.) I felt like a kid again, seeing baseball for the first time, in a whole new light. Was it the breaking and entering that made me feel such a childish rebelliousness? Perhaps. But past my mischievous glare, through the drops of rain dripping patterns of the brim of my hat, I saw a playing field which will never be touched by sell-out egos and un-swallowed pride. I see a field touched by cleats of men who fight to play baseball for a team I love. I see a field where hearts and minds will be tested, beyond pissing in a cup, beyond Congressional hearings. I saw a field where bats and balls, gloves, arms and legs will decide futures and define pasts. I did not see anything heroic come out of the steroid scandal, other than those who were not accused. I see only heroics in the young, untainted desires and dreams of a new generation.

I have always stuck to one truth, that I use as a fall back to rekindle my love of the game, every time the flame of my fandom candle is blown to the edge of darkness. This truth revolves around three names, ambassadors to the game, ambassadors to my generation; Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr. and Derek Jeter. I convinced myself that if these three men were to ever be mentioned, were to ever have their names go down in the annuls of steroid history, baseball as I know it, would never be the same. Baseball as I know it however, is more than Major League Baseball, and it’s more than the heroics of the players I have loved. I never had any stake in McGwire or Sosa, never any liking for Bonds or Clemens, and even if I had, I do not think I would have been taken out by the news of their betrayals. Baseball now, for me, is this Ed Smith sensation. It is this four day anticipation. Baseball fandom is a lifestyle, and I feel comfortable, for the first time in ten years, to throw my chips back in, and watch baseball again, for the right reasons. I do not feel like this will be a record breaking season, if records can even be considered to exist in such an era. I do, however, feel like this is a time for new heroes to immerge, for baseball to become a past time once again, an no longer the spectacle, the joke, or the bad example. I have to reference the post before mine, referring to the stacked defensive force of the Boston Red Sox, this upcoming season. I look forward to watching the reemergence of this such philosophy, not just as a continuation in Red Sox Nation, but across the league. I look forward to watching young players make it through their own Ed Smith Stadium experiences, and bring back the lost arts of the game. I will spend this next season counting small ball plays, hit and runs, BUNTS, cut-offs, and most importantly, the lost necessity for a an outfielder with a strong and accurate arm. (See: Roberto Clemente, Vladimir Guerrero, Ichiro…) I feel like baseball is due to make a comeback this year, and in the wake of what hopefully will be the last we hear of the steroid era dominance, I feel we as fans must welcome it with open arms.

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One Response

  1. Wow tazi this is like robert frost i think i need a tissue

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