Baseball is every day; baseball is forever

MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

Yesterday was the final day of the baseball season. The playoffs begin this week, and for the better part of the next month they’ll provide us with far different theater. Yet though there is a thick sense of excitement surrounding the Baltimore Orioles and their possibilities, a melancholy still surrounds many of us when the 162-game season comes to a close.

The baseball fan is never ready for the day-to-day of baseball to be over, yet for those of us who are blessed with the gift of baseball love, baseball never ends. Baseball is forever.

We never want the season to end because even bad baseball is better than no baseball, and when the postseason is complete and November comes, the nights will be suddenly barren, carrying with them the grim reality of the saddest words on earth — No games today.

The stability of knowing there is a game every day and every night and being able to count on it, then, consciously or subconsciously, adjusting your entire day and night around the first pitch provides great comfort, whether you are attending the game, watching it on TV or listening to it on the radio.

As Thomas Boswell said on Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary, “(Baseball is) one of those forms of gentle poetry that runs through our lives and makes the more important issues of living bearable. You have to have moments that give you pleasure with your children or your hobbies or your games. Life can’t all be big issues and heart surgery. Something has to bring joy into the day. I’ve always thought that the six months during the baseball season, there was something in the day that wasn’t there the other six months in winter. It was not that you had to listen to the game, but that you could if you needed it.”

As Earl Weaver once told Boswell himself, “This ain’t a football game, kid. We do this every day.”

Baseball is every day, yet it is something new every day. During every baseball game you watch you see something happen that you have never seen before. You see things that continue to provide you with great wonder and goose bumps, no matter how long you’ve been a baseball fan and no matter how late into a lost season that moment may occur.

The baseball season, you see, is not unlike the experience of a high school class reunion. As it approaches, you are filled with great anticipation. Then it arrives and lives up to and often exceeds your expectations, and in the wink of a young girl’s eye, it’s over; and once the so longs and the we’ll stay in touches have been said and the final tastes are savored, you miss it.

Almost as soon as it’s over, you miss it — your class reunion, your classmates and the people and things you hold dear to your heart. And that’s how it is with the day-to-day of the baseball season.

It’s the companionship. It’s the companionship of those and what you are familiar with and what you love that you never look forward to missing. Because it is companionship that lives in the heart of all that defines who and what we are.

In “The Green Fields of the Mind,” A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote, “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 …”

The Orioles, of course, will continue to play, but for the Washington Nationals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and 22 other teams, the long winter has just begun.

The Nationals and the Pirates have both experienced their ups and downs, certainly, the Pirates’ biggest downer coming in the second week of the season when they lost the dynamic Oneil Cruz for the entire season. I can’t help but believe the Pirates would have had a legitimate chance to be at or over .500 with their best player in the lineup for those 153 games that he missed.

The Pirates have promising pitching in the rotation and in the bullpen and they have a pair of potential stars in Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds to build around for years to come. If Pirates ownership finally gets serious, things will only get better and better.

The Nationals were competitive as well, surprisingly so, as their rebuild has taken full hold.

This team seems to stand where it stood prior to its previous postseason and World Series runs and where the Orioles found themselves just before the 2022 season when they would win 83 games.

It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Nationals, as they seem ready and capable to keep moving forward. General manager Mike Rizzo has done this before, and now that the Lerner family is making noises again about wanting to stick around in ownership, this team’s needle could be ready to move once more.

So, good night, baseball. Rest easy. Thank you for our summer afternoons and evenings. We’ll miss you, but once the postseason is over, we’ll be watching you all winter.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT