Woosh. Thump. Pause. Woosh. Thump. Woosh. Crack. Woosh. Cheers.
When the ball flies, it is then I realize how dead I’ve felt inside for 191 days. Yes, 191 days it has been since the ball has flown. Too long. I’ve been counting and waiting. And this moment is almost here. It’s just leather soaring through the air to most, but I know why my heart is excited to see this for the first time in a while. I’ve been through this awesome torture each year around the same time, but it doesn’t make it less intense.
When the ball flies into the little kid's gloves, you know it’s time. It’s everywhere. Not only are the little kids playing it, the big kids are too. Swinging off tees. Giving up 20 runs. Having a catch. The game is waking up. It’s outside my window. It’s in the park. It’s even on the video game console. So it’s time.
When the ball flies into the batting cage, the players take practice swings for real games. The food is getting prepared. The butterflies getting more intense. Pitchers stand around telling stories. Fans stand around telling stories. Remember when. Just watch.
The remember whens are more vivid. Remember when the player hit it over there. Remember when he threw this many innings. Remember that year. Remember how we felt at the beginning. Remember when could happen again. Just watch. Watch for our stars and the great plays they’ll make: the scoops, the running catches, the jump throws. The young guys break out, round the bases, unleash violence on opposing hitters. Watch for the walkoff, or the complete game. Watch the new guys come steal our hearts. Watch how our team fits together. Watch, we’ll win games, we say. In five years will this year be another remember when?
When the ball flies into the crowd, we feel happy. The kid who got the ball is happy. The player who tossed it in is happy. We have hope of snagging another one. In baseball there’s always another chance. So we wait. And tell more stories. And eventually we have a part of the game to bring home.
When the flag flies, we pause, “kindly remove our caps”, and maybe sing. Remember why we can. And be thankful that we’re sitting here about to watch baseball. For a couple minutes we feel American, well even more American. Hey, the pastime’s about to start. Right after “…the brave” we put on our caps in a declarative, proud sort of way. And clap for the song, but also for the beginning of the game.
When the ball flies out of the arm, it begins. There's a tiny moment in time before it reaches the plate. A moment of uncertainty. Ball, or strike. Hit fair or foul. We wait, and the sound tells of the result. We do it again for each pitch count. Again, uncertainty. Uncertainty is always here though. It makes the game intruiging. Win, or loss? Who will bat where? Will he pan out? Grow up? Break out? Regress? So much uncertainty for a small moment in time. But it will take many of these moments all summer, even if it's just beginning now.
When the ball flies out from home plate off the bat, there's a jump of excitement. The sudden action makes us wonder where the ball will land. The good guy threw it, the bad guy up to bat. Will it be caught? Sometimes when the ball flies it requires a little extra effort. He runs and crashes into the fence, leaving us to wonder if he caught it, or more importantly, if he's alright. If it's caught on the bounce, we have to trust it'll make it across the diamond or all the way back to home. The best part is when the ball flies half-way across the diamond, then the rest of the way, completing a double play. The players trust each other, so we trust them to do their job, beautifully.
Sometimes the ball flies the wrong way, takes a bad hop, or the player gets a bad read. Sometimes the season doesn't go as planned. Sometimes players turn out performing totally different than we thought they would. Sometimes the ball is dropped at the last second, and disappointment steals the show. Sometimes, when you think you're out of the inning, the ball manages to find places to be where you don't want it to. Sometimes in a season things go wrong when nothing more can. Then you have to find a way to end the inning, maybe bring in a new pitcher. Maybe nearly rebuild your team and bring in new players. Errors are a part of the game. We move on.
When the ball flies...it cracks against the bat and takes off for the clouds. There's a chance it might leave the park. There's always a chance. It flies on, the wind carries it. The player starts to round the bases. It flies further, making an arc. Maybe if the ball flies out, things will change. The score will be in our favor, the series. Maybe if it flies out, everything will be okay. Those seconds we are allowed to evaluate, and maybe hope. It's okay to hope. The ball flies, hopes fly. Dreams fly too. The hope gets in your eyes but you have to keep them open, watching the ball fly.
Because when the ball flies, even if it ends in an out, an error, or a home run, you just have to watch.