From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

So Many Things to Love About
America’s Game

It’s opening day, and I love baseball.

I love baseball stadiums, especially old ones in old parts of town.

I love baseball cards—for the right reasons, not for the money.

I love the fact that sixty feet, six inches, three strikes, nine innings and ninety feet are still perfect after all these years.

I love the echo of baseballs being hit during batting practice in any empty stadium.

I love watching windbreaker-clad pitchers run wind sprints on the outfield warning track during exhibition games.

I love the fact that Choo Choo Coleman, Pee Wee Reese and Cool Papa Bell answered to those names. As adults. In public.

I love the scent of freshly cooked popcorn in a stadium just about to open.

I love a beautifully dragged infield, and a pitcher’s mound carved just so with the resin bag in back.

I love the ivy at Wrigley, the Green Monster at Fenway, the subway that practically drops you off at home plate at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

I love the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I love the fact that the Baseball Hall of Fame is located in charming little Cooperstown, New York, even though the myth of baseball being invented in Cooperstown was exposed long ago.

I love the minor leagues.

I love the Little League World Series and the jewel of a miniature diamond in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

I love finding a game on the radio when driving a lonely stretch of highway late at night.

I love the fact that Yogi Berra didn’t say half the funny stuff he’s credited with saying, but the stories are just too good to let go.

I love the fact that a grizzled sportswriter can still cherish the memory of Willie Davis, thirty-eight years after he last saw him play in person.

I love batboys, ball girls and P.A. announcers with pizzazz and a clue.

I love shagging fly balls. Still.

I love seeing kids’ faces light up when a ballplayer says anything to them. Anything at all.

I love watching men so incredibly gifted that they can swing a stick at a tiny, speeding, rock-hard sphere and make it fly great distances.

I love watching second basemen fly over sliding base runners to complete the double play.

I love bullpen cars and foul poles that are in fair territory and dugouts that are truly dug out of the earth.

I love a deserted clubhouse decorated with freshly laundered uniforms hanging in cubicles filled with the working tools of ballplayers.

I love Edgar Martinez’s swing.

I love Randy Johnson’s fastball.

I love Junior Griffey’s smile.

I love a center fielder flagging down a fly in the gap, a shortstop coming up throwing from the hole, a blurry-fast relay from the outfield that nips a sliding runner at the plate.

I love meal money, tips for the clubhouse attendants and visiting players who take the time to say something to put the batboy at ease.

I love Bull Durham, Major League and A League of Their Own because they captured on film the incredible joy and agonizing pain of trying to play a game for a living.

I love that Harry Caray was loved by fans because he loved them, the Cubs and baseball. Not necessarily in that order.

I love bratwurst with Special Stadium Sauce at County Stadium in Milwaukee.

I love crab cakes at Camden Yard in Baltimore—I’m sure of it, though I’ve never eaten crab cakes and never been to Baltimore.

I love keeping a scorecard.

I love the seventh-inning stretch.

I love drinking a cold beer in a distant seat in a minor-league stadium I’ve never seen before.

I love Dave Niehaus and Grand Salami Time.

I love the fact that now-famous millionaires like Ken Griffey Jr. (Bellingham, Washington), Mike Piazza (Salem, Oregon) and Cecil Fielder (Bune, Montana) made their professional debuts nearby not so many years ago, and many of us were lucky enough to see them and realize we were witnessing something very, very special.

Howie Stalwick

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