Carney column: The green fields of the mind are back
“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 Green Fields of the Mind,” by A. Bartlett Giamatti
Baseball is the greatest game on Earth, at least in my mind. It runs from early February until late October, and keeps me captivated daily. There are few things better in this world than the smell of fresh-cut grass, the sharp sound of a ball connecting with a bat, and the general popping of the mitt as the ball meets leather around the diamond.
That being said, as former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti once said in his famous “The Green Fields of the Mind” piece, the beautiful game of baseball is designed to break your heart and leave you feeling hopeless and alone through late fall and into the winter.
Fortunately, that heartbreak has healed as the gray, dreary clouds have broken, the sun is shining, and it’s officially baseball season as Opening Day is just a day away. With that comes the excitement, anticipation and general hope for the season ahead from fans, players and media members. Without shame, I can say I’ve been looking forward to Opening Day since the calendar flipped from 2018 to 2019. Although my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t do much of substance in the off-season to improve their chances in the 2019 season, hope springs eternal each and every year for me when it comes to the Buccos.
This year though, there’s a general excitement for baseball overall, from the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry truly renewing this season as the Sox are coming off of a fourth World Series championship since 2004, while the Yankees were knocked out by Boston in the divisional round and haven’t sniffed the Series since 2003. With the star power on both sides of that rivalry, it will be must-watch baseball all summer long when those two fierce rivals lock horns.
Outside of the big-market monsters like Boston, New York and Los Angeles, baseball’s small-market behemoths such as the Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers should all be in contention for a playoff berth once again.
There’s just so much to work with as a fan, and even as a reporter and writer when it comes to the game of baseball. In recent years, I’ve fallen a bit out of touch with basketball at the collegiate and professional level, as well as college football, but baseball remains that one true constant with me. It’s always there on my mind, and it’s never going to go away. For some in the winter, that itch to put on their running shoes and feel the breeze on their face as they get in a good run is what causes some cabin fever. For others, it’s the sound of waves crashing into the beach with the sun beating down. For me? It’s the sound of the ball hitting the bat, the pop of the glove, and the general chatter heard around the ballpark, whether that’s at a professional game, or at a local game here in the valley.
It kills me that the younger generation just isn’t into the game that I love so much, simply because it’s considered too slow and doesn’t hold the attention of the younger generation, but there’s a real beauty hidden deep in the game within the game that dragged me in all those years ago that led to me playing as much baseball as possible in the suburbs of Pittsburgh from March through July. That hidden beauty — the strategy and one-on-one battles — brings me back to the game over and over again.
As a former pitcher, I love to watch the pitching matchups and try to decipher how they’re attacking opposing hitters. I know baseball isn’t for everyone, but I have the baseball fever, and I can’t shake it. I don’t want to.
One thing I’m really excited to experience this summer is baseball with my son, Julian. He’s just 6 months old, but I plan on having him sitting in my lap watching baseball every night in the summer, all while holding a baseball of his own, hopefully getting the feel of the ball and learning to love it. That’s going to make this year so special to me. The green fields of the mind have returned, and I’m happy once again.
“Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.”
Oh, and by the way, here are my playoff picks for the 2019 season: AL East – Boston Red Sox; AL Central – Cleveland Indians; AL West – Houston Astros; AL Wild Cards – Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees; NL East – Washington Nationals; NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals; NL West – Colorado Rockies; NL Wild Cards – Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers; World Series – Astros over Nationals.
Enjoy the season, folks!
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. Josh is a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but finds himself watching nearly every team in the league throughout the season, thanks to his MLB.TV app, which just might be the greatest technological creation aside from electricity (he’s kidding). To reach Josh, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter: @JCarney_Sports.
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