There are some who make fun of me for my “football, football, football” mentality. Yes, I’m a huge fan of football, particularly the Dallas Cowboys, and I probably go a little overboard with it at times.
But I’ve always had a second love when it comes to sports, and that’s baseball. I played it ever since I was 7, and I’ve followed the great game ever since I was 5. I have vivid memories of my parents and grandparents taking me to see Pittsburgh Pirates games in the early 1980s at old Three Rivers Stadium. I remember Mike “The Hit Man” Easley waving at me in left field once, and I remember seeing the Reds’ Johnny Bench play his final game in Pittsburgh before retirement.
When I moved to Texas at 13, I went to countless Rangers games. I saw Nolan Ryan in old Arlington Stadium. I saw dozens of games at the Ballpark in Arlington. I’ve been to the Astrodome and Minute Maid Park in Houston, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and old Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta.
The sounds, the smells, the atmosphere … there are few memories better than summer evenings at the ballpark.
That said, I’ve slipped as a baseball fan in recent years. It could be because of a number of things — my two favorite teams (Pittsburgh and Texas) have stunk it up over the past eight years, everything seems to be Boston and New York these days, the steroid issue has taken some of the fun out of the game, the World Series doesn’t start until 11 p.m. each night and goes until 4 a.m. (it seems) … etc., etc.
Because of my waning interest, I’ve lost track of who plays for what team. I no longer know who the prospects in the minors are. I don’t collect cards anymore. I’ve lost my way.
But that will change this year, as I vow to become a better baseball fan. I plan on partaking more in newsroom discussions on the great game; I plan on joining a fantasy baseball league or two, and I plan on attending some games this year … I’d love to see a game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and I wouldn’t mind driving four-plus hours to see the Nationals or the Orioles this year. I also want to attend a few Durham Bulls games or even see UNC.
My life’s gotten hectic over the past four years because of work, and baseball actually calms me. It makes me think. It soothes me.
Of course, it would help if the Rangers got some pitching or if Pittsburgh decided to spend some money this year … but I guess some things will never change.
Photo: Associated Press, Texas Rangers warming up during spring training in Arizona