The silliness and sublimity of baseball

In 1986 a 21-year-old Cuban-American became the starting right fielder for the Oakland A’s.  Tall, brawny and with the ability to hit towering home runs that seemed as if they would touch the billowy clouds above the Oakland Coliseum, he became an overnight sensation. Finishing the season with 33 home runs and 117 runs batted in, he was voted the rookie of the year.

I mention Jose Canseco now because he is my first memory of baseball. It started an obsession (that word might actually understate my feelings), which has continued to this day. I was the 7-year-old who opened the San Jose Mercury News every morning and went straight to the box scores. I memorized batting averages. I could recall Dave Stewart’s Win-Loss record and ERA off the top of my head. I listened to games on the radio on my Walkman when my parents thought I was sleeping. I invented imaginary games using baseball cards and discarded dice from my parents’ yahtzee set (of course the A’s always won.)

A quarter of a century later, I still obsess and ruminate. The A’s fifth starter options are something I think about far more than any human being should. Fangraphs and Rob Neyer are as important to me as the Bible is to many folks. As life has become more complicated and difficult, as hope has become interjected with disappointment, as adulthood has come and the frailty and finality of existence has become clearer to me, baseball has always served me well as not only a distraction but something that is stable and seemingly permanent. After all, baseball was played far before I was born and will likely go on far after I die. It is often the only thing that makes sense some days. And in four days, pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, and I am awaiting it with the anticipation of a 7-year-old kid. This may be silly to many of you.  But the silly and the sublime can often be one and the same.

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