The Baseball Desert

Monday, February 13, 2006

Rainy Days And Mondays

Although Paris was grey and wet today, and Boston was under a blanket of snow, there have still been sights to warm the hearts of baseball fans:

(photo AP)

Yup, the equipment truck is heading for Florida, which means that baseball is just around the corner, albeit only in the form of pitchers and catchers reporting. Still, after the barren months of winter, it's a wonderful sight, as uplifting as spotting the first blossom on the trees. A week from now we'll really be starting to feel the itch as we see players start their annual spring routine - long toss, fielding drills, batting practice - which will ease both them and us into the beginning of another season of baseball.

This winter has seen the Red Sox go through crisis after crisis, but right now all that seems far away - all I can think of seeing nine guys take the field in the home whites. This is a gift that baseball gives to its fans every year, this time before any pitch is thrown in earnest, when we can sit back and dream of what might be ahead of us.

It's an old cliché to say that all teams start the season with the same record, but it's true, and onto that blank 0-0 canvas each team will paint the picture of its season. Come October, the finished pictures will all be different, but if you look at them closely enough, you'll find that each of them has something to offer the discerning eye - an improved record here, a division title there, a fireballing rookie elsewhere.

Teams will be judged, as ever, on their W-L records, but if those two figures are all you take away from a season of baseball then you're missing the point. A baseball season has the feel of a Dickensian novel: there are cliffhanger endings and games when it feels like time is standing still; days when we laugh out loud and others when we feel like tearing our hair out. But above all, there is a cast of characters, some of whom we already know, others of whom will be new to us, whose interactions and exploits we will follow day in and day out over seven months until it almost feels as if baseball is providing us with the heartbeat rhythm that keeps our lives ticking over.