Episode 16: Baseball

Pitchers and catchers have reported.

I know, that isn’t the most spiritual of matters – is it?

For those of you who are not familiar with this tradition – it is an annual event that every baseball fan waits for. It signals the end of the winter hibernation. Because pitchers have to go through long weeks of getting their arms ready to throw up to 200 innings in a 162 game season, they have to report to spring training early. And, because they have to throw to someone, the catchers have to come with them.

And so, every baseball fan hears the phrase ‘pitchers and catchers report’ as the signal that baseball has again begun. While others look for the first robin to appear; or the red buds to bloom; or the geese to head north again; or the ice to thaw – as signs that the long winter has ended: baseball fans wait to hear only that pitchers and catchers have reported.

Granted, that is much more mundane and secular way of observing that life cycles itself through stages of birth, growth, death, and resurrection. But I grew up not just aware of, but spiritually connected to the rhythms of baseball.

While there was still a chill in the air, I would begin throwing a ball in the back yard with my father and brothers.

As spring warmed, I would take out my catcher’s equipment and start taking pitches to get my knees loosened, work on my footing and timing my release down for throwing out potential base stealers.

I would begin hitting balls of a tee to work on my swing.

As the warmer summer months came around and school let out, games would be organized with kids from the neighborhood in the apple orchard behind our house. Uniforms would be given to us for the Little League team we played on. Baseball cards would be bought, traded, or clipped to the spokes of our bike wheels to make that cool sound.

Opening day of the Major League season was like Christmas for me. As a parent, I took my kids out of school every year to attend that first game.

Newspapers were scoured every morning pouring over box scores to see who did what the night before in the Major Leagues; and where the Cardinals stood in the standings.

As fall nipped the air, pennant races were tracked with the hope that your team remained alive – hoping that the magic number would come and reveal that my beloved St. Louis Cardinals were once again going to the Post Season.

The playoffs would come, and then I would watch the last game of the World Series. The last pitch signaled to me the close of another season.

Winter months would be spent reading the backs of baseball cards; reading books about the early history of the game or its most recent stars. Baseball movies, like Bad News Bears, Bull Durham, or Bang the Drum Slowly would help me ease the pain of a winter without live baseball.

And then pitchers and catchers would report again. These are the rhythms that help me mark the passing of time.

Every culture has a way of reminding itself of how life is renewed in rhythmic patterns and cycles. God’s love abides in season and out; it is refreshed after times of apparent loss or death. Leaves fade and fall, only to green up again in the warmth of a new spring.

What marks the passing of time for you? What cycles of birth and rebirth trigger your heart to an awareness of the passing of sacred time and space on your journey Into the Mystic?