I’m hoping baseball is fun for me again

My weekly Bill Moor email tells me the exact number of days until baseball’s opening day is getting smaller so I guess it is time.  Time to get ready for baseball.  It is my time to kick off the winter blues and take a look at the schedules and wonder when, where and if there would be a good time to take in a game or two.

  When would the sun be out and the temperature just right to walk into the darkness of a ballpark concourse and stand, just for a second, in the walkway to the seats.  The dark walkway that perfectly frames the bright green of the field and somehow enhances the sound of the ballpark to a symphonic level.

Most people don’t really have to “get ready” for baseball but I do, especially after last year.  I’ve become a cheap old man.  The fact that last year, at this time, there were negotiations over who would get which chunk of the big baseball dollar left a bad taste in my mouth. I watched the games last year begrudgingly but I still watched.

I admit I’m not the best fan.  I don’t often know the players’ names or their stats but I am loyal to the Cubs.  I guess it’s their underdog label.  It seems to have returned even after a World Series win.  I identify with their lovable loser aura.  They did a great job once but now suffer from what a friend once called the “Janet Jackson What Have You Done for Me Lately Syndrome.”

I’ve never played the game and have the athletic ability of a brick.  Still, I admire the speed at which a pitcher delivers the ball to home plate.  A sports car could not get up the speed to get to home plate as fast as a pitcher gets the ball there.  The batter is somehow able to hit that small object with only a slightly bigger object.  The fielder then has the ability to catch that small object as it hurtles toward him.

  Mankind may strive to recreate these motions and never succeed but here are the boys of summer doing this on a nightly basis.  It is nothing short of a miracle that some humans are capable of such motions.

Then there are the fans.  Some view the games as a friendly rivalry.  They might call you a bum for the team you choose but ultimately they respect you because there is mutual respect for the game.

There is the family out for a visit to the old ballpark.  Major, minor, Little League, or school ball, the whole family seems to be having a good time.  Some are there for the game.  Some are there for the concessions.  Some are there just to hang out.  Everyone enjoys the old ballpark. 

There are the old-timers.  Before the burst of technology in game broadcasting, they would be sitting there with an “earpiece,” listening to one game while they watched the action on the field.  They are there out of respect for the game.

Although I was not athletic enough for baseball, my dad and uncles were.

I sat down with my uncle, Art O’Chap, last spring with hopes of getting over the bad taste in my mouth left from Major League Baseball’s contract negotiation.  At 95, he is about five years younger than my dad, Clem Sobieralski, and six years younger than another uncle, Leo Sobieralski.  All three played baseball in their youth, the pre- and post-World War II years.

  It was an inspiring conversation filled with finer details of the stories Dad told me long ago.  They were stories I should have paid closer attention to, but didn’t.  Sinatra was right, “Regrets, I have a few.”

While the conversation was enough to make me want to tune in to a game, the inspiration went a little further.  It reminded me it was about the game and not the contract negotiations. It also reminded me of my dad.

“Your dad was a good ball player.  He was a good hitter,” my uncle told me.

  In the pre-World War II era, Dad might have had his opportunities to seek out the majors. But because of the blue-collar class my whole family was a part of, there were responsibilities at home.  Baseball was just a fun way to pass any free time. 

During the summers before and after WWII, “every tavern had a team.  FOP (Fraternal Order of Police), the firemen had a team, “ Uncle Art said.  There were no “contract negotiations.” Players might “get a jacket at the end of the season or a case of beer at the end of the game.”  It was just a chance for guys to get together and have some organized fun.

Yep, I think I might be ready for this season. 

Uncle Art had fun playing baseball.  He played for Washington High School and the FOP in the ‘40s.  He would go on to marry Lucille Sobieralski, work at Singer Manufacturing, and retire from Mohawk Door.  He is still in South Bend and is always there to fill in his nephew on days gone by.

Uncle Leo had fun, too.  He played for Washington High School, the VFW, and St. Joseph Young Men’s Society.  He would go on to marry Kay Podell, work at Studebaker and retire from Dodge manufacturing.  Leo Sobieralski passed away several years ago.  In the summer, he was never too far away from a Cubs game whether it be on the radio or television.

My dad, Clem Sobieralski, also had fun.  He played for Washington High School, the VFW, and St. Joseph Young Men’s Society.  There was only an age difference of one year between Clem and Leo and so they played on the same teams.  He would go on to marry Dolores Rys, work at Studebaker and retire from AM General.  He passed away in 2000. 

My dad just liked the game.  If asked what team he rooted for, he would say he just wanted a good game.  I still remember walking with him on the construction site of what is now Four Winds Field.  We stood at the yellow foul ball line post.  Not much else was around, just dirt, the post, and a wall.

  I guess we were just waiting for the fun to start.