|JUCO World Series-bound Midland College Chaparrals, 2013 NJCAA Region 5 Champions|
And, no, I don't have the stats, the percentages or the research to back that up. Honestly, I'm not the baseball fan I was forty years ago ... and even then, I was out-of-sync with most of my friends and neighbors. The pro sports franchises that warmed their hears were mostly in Philly, just a two-hour drive south of my home near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. But my heart was warmed by franchises at the west end of the Keystone State, on the banks of the Monongahela where Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillén and the rest of my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates pursued America's pastime.
But even after all these years, and even after I've embraced 'the dark side' and begun following soccer more, I still enjoy a ballgame. Sometimes, I think I've been fortunate to have spent most of the past 35 years in areas where minor league ball is played ... in Albuquerque, NM with the Dukes, and in Midland, TX with the Rockhounds ... the venues are more intimate, the seats are affordable, there's an unusually high percentage of friends and acquaintances in the stands with you, and the players seem to be more concerned with playing than posturing as they work their way up to the majors.
In the time that has passed since the creation of "englische Base-ball" (or whatever), it still remains a favorite pastime ... and for all its appeal in other parts of the world, still a popular American pastime ...
It's like that line from "Field of Dreams" (one of the better speeches ever committed to film), adapted from Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe" (a great book on baseball, its magic and its appeal) ...
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again."
... it reminds me of the fun I've had in the stands, which I later shared with my boys. And how the wife and I would whoop-it-up from the sidelines when their rec teams took the field. I hope they'll share it with their kids someday ... if not, Grandpa will be standing by!
In the meantime, I regret that we will not be able to make the drive up to Colorado this weekend, to watch my 'Chaps' play ... a Memorial Day break in the hills and mountains of Colorado, watching aspiring young players take their best shot at the title ... I can think of worse ways to spend a weekend.