Apr

4

 Tomorrow, at 3:05 in the afternoon (Eastern Time), one of those moments of celestial perfection will transpire, a moment when all seems possible and nothing has been tarnished by the dropping of the grains in the hourglass, the passage of time. Boys of the deep South will understand that moment as the baseball equivalent of the moment before Pickett's Charge. At that moment, in Camden Yards, arguably the king of all ballparks and certainly the grandad of the current retro design parks, Chris Tillman will reach back in his windup to throw the hardest fastball he can as the 2016 season opens—at least the Orioles' 2016 season.

For golf fans, the green jacket of the Master's champion will find a new bearer for the year, and the US and British Opens loom large. For basketball fans, the Final Four beckon. For ice hockey fans, well, I don't know, I've never followed ice hockey.

The unfolding disaster that is the Rio games will soon come into view. But for the moment at least, one's attention is on baseball, on the opening of the season, and one's vision turns to Orioles Park at Camden Yards. Or Camden Yards for the cognoscenti. Or just the Yards for Baltimoreans.

Camden Yards has not yet ascended into the annals of baseball as sacred ground the way the Old Gray Lady of 33rd Street, Memorial Stadium, site of 1966 World Series with the dominance of the Orioles over the Dodgers, site of the last game Sandy Koufax ever pitched, the site of the "Here" pennant, the site of Brooksie, Frank, Pancakes and Cueller, the Kingdom of Earl and much of Cal Ripken's streak, no tomato plants by which one could time when the club would start to perform, never mind the Colts and all that went with that tradition before the Indianapolis theft (of the name, not the team—starting with the shape of the stadium from above—has. Like other storied venues, like Ebbet's Field, the grandeur that was once there has been reduced to a plaque that future generations can walk by with little understanding conveyed of the significance of the site that they are standing by.

The Yards with Boog's barbecue. With the 6:30 minyans. With the kosher (glatt this year?) hot dogs. All are the sentinels of an approaching game that evening.

Tillman will rear back and let loose a fastball because throughout his career, when Tillman starts off a batter with a breaking pitching ("curve ball" is so passe´—particularly since kids in Little League are so determined to throw curve balls that it screws up their arms and leaves the Show with little more than a 5 man rotation and a bunch of weak arms (compared to the ear before the 1980s)), there's a 4-fold greater chance of the hitter assuring that the ball becomes the new acquisition of some child in the bleachers than if Tillman throw some heat. There may be a shift, though why baseball refuses to follow the example of the St Louis Cards I do not know. Regardless, for that one moment after the ump (hopefully with glasses and a certificate attesting to his visual prowess) screams, "Play ball!" and Tillman winds up and throws, for that one moment as the pitch sails towards home plate, when the standards show all teams tied for first place, for that moment the world sits in an state of quiet perfection, with the ills of seasons past banished and the promise of 162 games going into the win column unfolding, for that one moment peace is on earth and there is goodwill towards all.

Then the ball hits hard into the catcher's mitt. Thump! And the call will be heard throughout the ballpark, "Strike 1!" as the ump, in a demonstration of his visual skills, holds up his right arm with the index finger extended.

The 2016 season will have begun.

How will the Orioles fare this year? Probably not at the level the Card will. Scott, you will have a much easier season, I am sure.

For Baltimore fans, there will be much gnashing of the teeth, wonderment that Danny Duquette decided that paying a pitcher like Ubando Jimenez $4+ million to learn how to pitch—again, questioning of why Duquette did so little to address the seemingly perpetual weakness of starting pitching (and this from the club which 45 years ago had 4 20 game winners (only one of whom, Jimmy Palmer, made it to the HoF), and hoping that for once, the pitching and defense are actually in sync with the hitting. Some questions remain: Will Manny Machado make it through the season without an injury—if so, he starts to look like a worthy successor to Brooksie and Cal; will Davis hit now that he's no longer looking at free agency; will the bullpen perform—particularly Zach Britton; and will Kevin Gaussman finally show that his future isn't always in the future. We'll know soon enough. six months hence. 162 games, to be exact.

It is a time when all is possible, and a young man's fancy turns from the cold snows of winter to the hummingbirds of spring. And the knock of the bat hitting the ball.

Play ball!


Comments

Name

Email

Website

Speak your mind

Archives

Resources & Links

Search