The simplest way for me to immediately realize happiness is to walk through the turnstiles of a baseball stadium. From an early age, baseball was not just a beautiful game played between two lines and a wall with dirt paths and bases; it was a way for me to bond with my father, a way for simple excitement to meet athleticism and strategy.
The first baseball game I ever attended was an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium in the late 1980s. While I don’t remember that game, I do remember one or two games at Memorial Stadium was closed. My first memory brings me great happiness. It was the 1991 season, the last at Memorial Stadium. In that game, I remember Cal Ripken Jr. hitting a 3-run Home Run. It was an MVP season for Cal – his second of his career. What I remember more is watching my father pump his fist in a circular motion, chanting “Woo-Woo-Woo-Woo!!,” while doing it. It was the first of many times I would emulate my father on or around the diamond. I can remember, clear as day, the look on his face when he watched me do the same motion, albeit most likely in a severely inferior way. The smile and laughter he shared with me that night is the perfect illustration of my love for baseball. Baseball is pure. Simple. Yet ultra complicated. A man stands on a mound of dirt 60’6″ from a man holding a bat. The pitcher has learned to throw the ball in a manner of different ways that make the ball move in different trajectories. He has an invisible box he must put that ball in, and the batter must choose, very quickly, whether or not the pitch being offered is worthy of a swing. When he swings, he can hit the ball with all of his might and still be unsuccessful. He might also swing and miss. He might even still swing and barely hit the ball, and still be successful. Every pitch presents a myriad of variables resulting in unique plays and situations where the victor is often the team that handles the situations presented them with the better combination of skill and preparation. Baseball can be played on the most pristine of fields, or in a parking lot. As we see in photographs around the world, it is played with all manner of adaptations to balls, sticks and gloves. But that is all you need to play. A ball, a stick, and 9 gloves.
Baseball gives us amazing venues, stars and highlight reel plays to visit, gawk over and spend countless hours debating at the water cooler. It also gives us tee-ball, Memorial Day All-Star game tournaments, reasons to see friends and loved ones. Baseball gives more than it takes, which is why it is affectionately dubbed America’s past-time. Its been played since Reconstruction and unites more people to a common passion than at anytime before. Only soccer and cricket eclipse it on the chart of world’s most popular sport. Baseball is the unspoken bond between father and son, brother and brother, and groups of boys everywhere just hoping to one day actually hit that bases loaded, full count, two out Grand Slam with a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth, with the crowd going wild. Baseball is a real-life event that translates miraculously into fantasy with very little coaxing or prodding. And for each of these things, it is a bottomless well of happiness for all who seek to be immersed in the present, playing games of the past.
Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,