Why do I post my Baseball Is… verse each Opening Day? Because of letters like the one below.
I know that your poem “Baseball Is…” is over 20 years old now. But I just read it for the first time when I was researching the Cincinnati Reds’ opening day (which is tomorrow 4/06/2015). Of which I’m taking my son to his very first opening day. I’ll admit, your poem brought a tear to my eye thinking about my dad.
I remember him very vividly taking me out of my elementary school class “kidnapping me” as he called it, to my first opening day when I was my own son’s age. Him playing catch with me in the backyard and coming to all of my games. HE NEVER MISSED ONE GAME all the way from little league through college when I played for Hanover College.
My dad has been gone for several years now. But before he passed away from colon cancer, I am so thankful that he had the opportunity to hold my son and love on my boy for the last bit of time we had left with him.
I won’t write you a book any more than I already have, but thank you so much for bringing those great memories back through your writing and the reassurance that I will have many great memories to be made still with my son. It really made my day. God bless you. Sincerely, David
I wrote Baseball Is… in 1994 just as the MLB Players union went out on strike. Our first son was just a few months old at the time and I asked myself how I would describe to him this game I so loved if the MLB players never returned. How would you explain baseball to a ten-year-old who had never experienced the game? That son is now 21 years old, as is this poem. These are the words I chose.
Baseball is grass, chalk and dirt
Displayed the same yet differently
In every park that has ever heard the words, “Play ball!”
Baseball is a passion that that bonds and divides all those who know it.
Baseball is a pair of hands stained with newsprint,
A set of eyes squinting to read a box score,
And a brow creased in an attempt to recreate a three-hour game from an inch-square block of type.
Baseball is the hat I wear to mow the lawn. Baseball is a simple game of catch,
And the never-ending search for the perfect knuckle ball.
Baseball is Willie vs. Mickey,
Gibson vs. Koufax
And Buddy Biancalana against the odds.
Baseball links Kansan and Missourian,
American and Japanese,
But most of all – father and son.
Baseball is the scent of spring,
The unmistakable sound of a double down the line,
And the face of a ten-year-old emerging from a pile of bodies with a worthless yet priceless foul ball.
Baseball is a language of very simple words that tells unbelievably magic tales.
Baseball is three brothers in the same uniform, on the same team for one brief summer, captured forever in a black and white photo on the table by the couch.
Baseball is a glove on a shelf,
Oiled and tightly wrapped,
Slumbering through the stark winter months.
Baseball is some Elmer’s glue, a couple of finishing nails, a hammer and some black tape, Lovingly applied in an attempt to coax a few more innings out of a splintered Louisville Slugger.
Baseball is the foreign sensation you get when placing your hand in someone else’s glove.
Baseball is Mark Sawatski swiping his mom’s Oxydol to “chalk” the lines for our neighborhood sandlot game of the week.
Baseball is the smell of a freshly screen-printed jersey,
In the hands of an 11-year-old who just made the team.
Baseball is the way generations compare themselves and their idols.
Baseball is molding the bill of your cap to your own personal specifications.
Baseball is a breast pocket bulging with a transistor radio.
Baseball is the reason there are transistor radios.
Baseball is a fifth-grade history class huddled around Sister Irma and her Philco,
On a sunny October afternoon.
Baseball is sitting in your car on a humid summer night,
Listening to the play-by-play on the only radio that will pick up the game.
Baseball is a voice in a box,
Describing men you’ve never met,
In a place you’ve never been,
Doing things you’ll never have the chance to do.
Baseball is the potential for a no-hitter with every national anthem.
Baseball is 90 feet of anticipation.
Baseball is my dad hollering score updates upstairs after mom had long ago sent us to bed.
Baseball is the acquired art of extending the life of a hard ball,
With knots, tape and spit,
Until the round rubber center reveals itself and ends the day’s game.
Baseball is a shoestring catch,
A booted ground ball,
And even a Clete Boyer.
But it’s not a game for loafers.
Baseball is the numbing sting of a fastball off the fists of a batter on a cold April night.
Baseball is knowing when to run,
When to stop,
And when to slide.
Baseball is a thinking man’s game that takes no brains to excel at.
Baseball is a tear rolling down the cheek of a child in uniform,
As he watches a thunderstorm wash out the day’s game.
Baseball is a scribbled and blotched scorecard,
That can make 6-4-3 look like a ballet.
Baseball is fireworks at the ball park every Fourth of July.
Baseball is experimenting with the grip of a baseball,
In the hopes of inventing a new and unhittable pitch.
Baseball is pepper, three-flies up, five-hundred and home run derby,
Played by kids in every schoolyard since before Babe Ruth.
Baseball is imitating every nuance of the stance of your favorite player.
Baseball is determining who gets “first-ups” by strangling the neck of a bat.
Baseball is the anguish you feel when a Yankee gets traded to the Red Sox.
Baseball is how I learned my geography.
Baseball is the four-inch-high trophy that I have never thrown away.
Baseball is taught by dads to sons, In hopes that the boy will master the game that the man did not.
Baseball is a dream that you never really give up on.
Baseball is precious.
Baseball is timeless.
Baseball is forever.
Click here 01 Track 1 to listen to the audio version.
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