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.
"....the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)
"The day after my 80th birthday, which overflowed with good wishes, surprises and Covid-safe celebrations, I awoke feeling fulfilled and thinking that whatever happens going forward, I’m OK with it. My life has been rewarding, my bucket list is empty, my family is thriving, and if everything ends tomorrow, so be it.
"Not that I expect to do anything to hasten my demise. I will continue to exercise regularly, eat healthfully and strive to minimize stress. But I’m also now taking stock of the many common hallmarks of aging and deciding what I need to reconsider."
--Jane E. Brody, my pal in the NYT newsroom, oh, a few years back, in the Personal Health column, Sept. 13, 2021.