On March 10, 2021

Take me out to the ball game

By Merisa Sherman

I’m not sure if I recognize the voices, but the words wash over me like an old, worn blanket. The patterns of phrasing, the flow of emotions, combined with just the right amount of grit, make the memories come floating back and I am transported. The imaginary smells of popcorn, hot dogs and well worn leather are wafting in the wind, compete in with the roar of the crowd. Two voices intertwine to tell a story of hard work, commitment and more statistics than could be humanly possible. But there is magic in those words, excitement, adventure and a simple simplicity that will define most evenings from now until October.

Spring training has begun.

The familiar analysis tells like a bedtime story, for more often than not, it was ours growing up. My dad would turn on the radio and we would go about our lives as the idle chatter sang in the background. The voices of the commentators were the soundtrack of our childhood, their emotions filtering into our minds whether we were interested or not. There was no judgement of the game, no yelling or shouting back at the radio. Baseball wasn’t something that we took time out of our daily lives for, it was ingrained in every evening from 7:05 onward.

I often joke to myself that baseball announcers should publish audio books of bedtime stories, because it was their voices echoing through our cabin each night as we lay in our beds. My parents listening from their room, my little sister and I from our lofted space above. We fell asleep each night to an analysis of our mighty first baseman’s swing or the stance of the visiting catcher and its effects on the call of balls and strikes. I might know more about baseball from words infiltrating my dreams more than any other source.

And then we would be jolted awake by an amazing play or a home run, the celebratory shouts of the announcer breaking through a deep sleep. Or even better, the announcement that our team had won the game and we would listen to the cheers of the crowd. Our family of four would nod back to sleep as we listened to the post game show, smiles creeping across our faces.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that baseball was so boring that it put us to sleep 163 times a year. Far from it. From spring training onward, baseball was part of our lives. It was the soundtrack that went with chopping vegetables or making hamburger patties. It was the background noise for cleaning my room and folding my clothes. And it was the underlying conversation during dinner, whether a regular Tuesday night or Easter Sunday. The beginning of baseball season marked the end of silence in our house and the beginning of something special.

Long before we were accomplished skiers, before my dad became a ski instructor and long before I became a ski bum, there was baseball showing us how to do things together as a family. We listened to games, we went to games, we played our own games, we played catch in the front yard. Before we were ever a ski family, we were a baseball family.

My great-grandfather took his two daughters to the ballpark all the time; he in a suit and my grandmother in a frilly dress with a big hat and little white gloves. Not a baseball glove like we might do today, but actual formalwear gloves. My grandmother, even after her debilitating stroke, could still tell you when they were showing a replay game on television. I don’t think she missed a game, ever.

It was always the icebreaker when we showed up to visit and the conversation around every dinner, even in the middle of winter. This week, we will be sitting on the back deck soaking up the first few rays of springtime. Perhaps we’ll throw some hotdogs on the grill or pop some popcorn or just crack a cider and read a book. I might even take the yoga mat out if it really does get warm enough. It’ll be nice to let the toes get some fresh air after all these many days in ski boots. We’ll enjoy the first warm days as winter ends and spring begins … all as we listen to the sounds of baseball.

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