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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Editor's Notebook: There's something special about baseball

(Taken from Papa's editorial at The Reading Eagle)

The game was almost over. The only reason we were still there after seven innings was the fireworks that were coming at the end. There's only so much baseball a 4-year-old can handle, even with ice cream, cotton candy and funnel cakes. But we had made it and were waiting for the lights to go out and for the real show to begin.

The players for the visiting Harrisburg Senators were congratulating each other for an impressive 11-0 win over our Reading Phillies at First Energy Stadium and were walking off the field. One of the players in catchers gear walked toward the box seats on the third base side, next to the visitors' dugout. He reached out his mitt toward a little girl, and she took the ball in both hands. For her grandfather her face lit up the nighttime sky.

My faith in baseball has been weakened in recent years. Friday night, it got a boost.There's a reason it's called America's pastime. It's America's game, a real field of dreams. It's exciting and relaxing, all in one package. It's a time for fathers and sons - or grandfathers and granddaughters - to talk and share and cheer and laugh.

But throughout its history, baseball has been damaged from within: the Black Sox scandal of 1919, the Pete Rose suspension for betting on games, strikes, steroids and more recently bad language shouted at a victory celebration. For a brief moment last Friday night, all that didn't matter.I don't even know his name. Don't know if he is a good player who will become a star or someone who is just hanging on and chasing an impossible dream. Don't know if he respects the history of the game or not. But on this night, a minor league catcher made a little girl and her grandfather smile.

It happened so quickly that I didn't have a chance to thank him. To be honest, I was so captured by the expression on her face that he slipped away before I knew who he was. But what happened that night is a large part of what baseball is all about - fun and children and going home with a baseball. For any player who doesn't understand that, it's an assault on the game itself. Like it or not, these players are role models. They have a responsibility. And for those who are talented enough and lucky enough to move from this Double A level to the big show, that responsibility doesn't stay behind.

Millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses don't change that. Too often, we all get caught up in those millions that players are paid. A baseball costs around $10, so the monetary value of what happened that Friday night wasn't significant. But, you see, it's not about the baseball; it's the memory. And on this night, an unnamed young man hit a home run without swinging a bat.

From a 4-year-old little girl and her grandfather: Thank you.

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