The Baseball Desert

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Inside the lines

I don't claim to be any kind of baseball writer, but in my more idle moments - of which there are many over the winter - I often think that getting paid to watch baseball for eight months a year would be a nice way to earn a living. The only drawback I can see is that there has to be some measure of objectivity to the writing - the writer can never truly be just another fan in the stands, rooting for the home team (if (s)he has a home team).

The return of baseball to Washington D.C. has Thomas Boswell pondering these questions and looking forward to the Nationals' spring training with the joy and enthusiasm of a little kid. If this week's steroid revelations (or non-revelations) have left you feeling a little jaded, then Boswell's article is the ideal pick-me-up:
From the camp opener in February until October, a big league team is with you for 7 1/2 months. Baseball insinuates itself into every night of spring and summer, as well as the best days of fall. Then it returns to help us endure the end of winter as we wait for Opening Day.
It's been a long time coming for the people of the nation's capital, but as of next week they're finally going to have a home team to root for once again. That prospect has Boswell so excited that he's even thinking about crossing the line - both literal and figurative - that separates him from those he writes about:
The return of the Nats will complete a circle for many of us, while starting a whole new cycle for others. The first big leaguer I ever interviewed was a Senator in their last season here in 1971. Lenny Randle was in the RFK Stadium outfield during batting practice. So I walked out to talk to him. Why not? What line drives? Isn't that where you interview 'em?

"I don't think you're supposed to be out here," said Randle, one rookie to another.

To this day, I doubt I've set foot inside the lines again. But on Tuesday in Viera, Fla., I'll be tempted. I feel a need, shared with many, for some tactile sense that the Nats are back. For months, people have asked me earnestly, "Is it really going to happen?" As if this is all an incredibly elaborate practical joke on a scale slightly smaller than faking the first man on the moon.

"I think so," I say, but don't go further.

This return of the team makes children of us all. I feel too young to know such an important thing for certain. So, just to be sure, next week I may walk to right field and touch the grass.
Screw steroids - this is what baseball is all about.