Happy New Year!

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land. -Song of Solomon 2:11-12

Thus the eminent Ernie Harwell began his first broadcast from Tigertown in Lakeland to the frosty north at about this time nearly every year for half a century.  But the ritual is even older than the 92-year old pulpiteer now witnessing the beautiful earthly liturgy for the last time.  Ol’ Rogers Hornsby famously described his typical winter day:  “I stare out the window and wait for spring.”  Baseball believers have long been counting down the weeks and days until “pitchers and catchers report.”  It is our Rosh Hashanah, our Easter, and it finally arrived today to fulfill the promise of hope and new life stretching gloriously ahead into the distant unseen summer.

It’s not recognized on any official calendar, but I am fortunate enough to live in the heart of our springtime Eden and so I was able to observe the sacrament despite the societal persecution that would render this just another Wednesday.  The office/cubicle where my soul has slowly putrefied these past few months is located just a short drive up the road from Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.  So the lunch hour usually spent at my desk perusing the scriptures was today devoted to soaking in the sunshine and the immaculate aesthetic symmetry of the green, brown, and white diamond.

Unbeknownst to this humble blogger, the Yankees had scheduled a press conference with Joe Girardi in the clubhouse at noon.  So most of the circus was in there, leaving me to watch a group of minor leaguers throwing long-toss, instead of the world champions that I had expected.  My plan was to snap a few photos before heading back to work, but the unflinching Trost Nazis (Tampa detachment) dutifully prevented me from disturbing the pseudo-gods in such an egregious manner.  I should have expected this, considering that one of their compatriots had similarly denied my scandalous attempt to bring my son’s foldable stroller into Steinbrenner Field last summer on the grounds that the minor league Yankees were “expecting a big crowd” that night against Clearwater.  (I suppose it was big by FSL standards – upwards of 2,000 people in a 10,000-seat stadium.)  But the unprecedented ban on photography caught me by surprise.  Chalk it up as just another reason to hate the Yankees.  It was, nevertheless, a rejuvenating half-hour.  The cracks of wood, smacks of leather, and timeless glossolalic infield chatter are still kindly reverberating through my cranial cavity.  A new year has officially arrived.

Over the next couple of weeks I hope to visit the Phillies’ and Blue Jays’ camps, and possibly the Tigers, Braves, or Astros if my worldly schedule permits, and capture some images of them.  Until then, may the baseball gods be with you.

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