“I have to absorb the new season like sunlight, letting it turn my winter skin pink and then brown.”
―W.P. Kinsella, from “Shoeless Joe”
• • •
A front-page color photo of Minnesota Twins players beginning their spring training workouts under a warm, cloudless blue sky down there in Florida (“Spring fling,” Feb. 15) stirred my juices beyond my lifelong love of the game.
Up here, we’re still stuck in winter, spinning our wheels during these frozen, post-holiday doldrum days. My hunch is that most of us have had it with windchills, ice dams, frostbite fears, impound lots, herniated disks and having to do the penguin shuffle on ice that’s everywhere. You know this is a particularly nasty winter when the thrill of the “snow day” from school is gone. “Way too many already,” I overheard one high schooler lament to another at a coffee shop in the middle of the day, bored out of their minds. Add to all that the depressing state of the world made uglier than usual because even some folks we voted for are behaving in ways we try to teach our kids not to.
But just when we need her most, Mother Nature is nudging us to awaken. “Time for a change,” she whispers at first, her good timing intact as always.
Seems like each one of her seasons inspires her to inspire us. Especially spring, I’d say. Thoughts of imminent spring jump-start our minds and bodies to get off the couch and do things better than the last time we tried. Mother Nature loves do-overs.
“Spring is the time of plans and projects,” Tolstoy said. Not to mention the joyful anticipation of a belly flop into a warm lake instead of that heart-thumping polar plunge some are prone to do around this time of year.
You’re thinking: A photo of that Twins ballplayer, Jason Castro, suggests all that? I say, Yes! Look at him. He’s chiseled and confident, rearing back to throw hard and true. (I swear he’s posed like that majestic bronze statue of Zeus, forged in the act of hurling a thunderbolt.)
Look at him. Castro knows what to do, what he needs to do and how to do it. No pretenses. No equivocations. No self-doubts. He’s you and me — who we want to be, can be and soon will be. Just as soon as we stash our mukluks, balaclavas, ice cleats and parkas.
Meanwhile, it’s still winter. But spring — and with it, baseball — is imminent now. I know that because of the photo (and the coincidental (?) return of that gorgeous cardinal). A. Bartlett Giamatti, American professor of English Renaissance literature, president of Yale University and the seventh commissioner of Major League Baseball, once said, “… The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again.”
But let’s say baseball isn’t your thing. Think about those “everything elses” that matter to you: your son or daughter’s (or your?) upcoming prom, planting, spring cleaning (whatever that is, but it’s music to our ears), those half-serious, half-in-jest “long time no sees” between you and your hibernating and returning sunbird neighbors, a cold drink in the warm sun, the aroma of fresh-cut grass.
The other morning I opened the front door to get the newspaper. Still cold and gray. Yet another blast of cold air. But this time I was greeted by a bright, bright red cardinal and his big-time song. Then it started to snow. Later, my street was plowed. But that’s OK.
Because baseball’s back. And you know what that means!
It’s front-page news.
Dick Schwartz lives in Minneapolis.