Just say it out loud, the mantra that gets some of us through the winter.
Pitchers and catchers, pitchers and catchers.
The good time is upon us.
The batteries are reporting in Arizona and Florida.
The New York Times has a touching recollection of the first dippy spring of the Mets, when Casey Stengel tried to convince people he was managing a contender.
Robert Lipsyte, who was there in St. Petersburg that first spring, describes what it was like. My first team – Newsday – also caught the sweet goofiness of the Mets, telling people it was really all right to enjoy whatever was coming next from this motley bunch.
Pitchers and catchers. The Amazing Mets, Casey called them. Too old, too young, too marginal. But what a good time.
In the spirit of pitchers and catchers and rejuvenation and springtime, I am sharing a poem that popped over my transom the other day, from Brian Doyle, not the guy who batted .438 for the Yankees in the 1978 World Series or a bunch of other Brian Doyles, but a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. He sent it to me; I send it to you, with his permission.
Poem to Celebrate the Day that Pitchers
and Catchers Report to Training Camp
One time years ago when I was a geeky goofy gawky teenager
I stood on the baseball mound and waited as our coach ambled
Out to give me advice or take me out, I couldn’t tell just which
From his face. Even though I had walked a couple of guys and
Another kid had hit a ball so hard it bounced through the fence
Before the outfielders could react, the coach didn’t seem angry.
Coaches on other teams got mad and threw things and shouted,
But not our coach, that I remember. When our coach arrived at
The mound I held out the ball, as we had been taught, and tried
To stay calm, but he said no no, stay in, you’re doing just great,
I just came out to talk a little. Boy, did that kid crush that curve
Or what? I haven’t seen a ball hit that hard in years. You notice
The sound the bat made? Kind of a basso whunk? Authoritative,
I would call that sound. Inarguable. Instantly identifiable, right?
I don’t think we spend sufficient time appreciating the sonorous
Aspects of the game, you know what I mean? The small musics,
You might say. Like how the fungo bat has a high note. Sounds
Sort of happy and relaxed, a before-the-game sound. And cleats
On concrete, that sounds cool. Clatter, that’s the word. So, what
Are you going to throw this next kid? I’d just stay with the heat;
Now, I know you say you have no control, and while that’s true,
You may actually suddenly achieve control – it’s not impossible.
And remember that every wild pitch causes trepidation and awe,
Which are not conducive to hitting. Hey, look a blue heron! See,
Right there, by the right field line! Wow. Okay, kid, go get them.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.