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MY TURN AT BAT
You Know Me, Donít You?
By Gene Carney
I am baseball. I've looked pretty much the same for over a hundred summers. That sounds like I'm old, but I feel young.
Find me in the eyes of a Little Leaguer or those of kids out with the ballpark crowd for the first time. Some say I look best in sunlight, on grass, on a Sunday in July. But that's me, even on a cold April night, even inside a dome.
Don't make the mistake of confusing me with those who play the game. Baseball is not greedy, nor am I a skinflint owner or the TV folk who sell commercials. Players may auction themselves off, bet on or throw games, and shun the fans. They may be ignorant about my past. They may even think they are baseball, but they are not.
Look past them all. See me in the turning of a 643 double play and a rookie's first hit. See me in the sweat on the forehead of the pitcher straining for the last out. See me in the autograph easily signed with a smile, the tip of the cap, the glance toward the stands when in a pinch. See me in the moment when suddenly everybody stands to see where the long ball will land.
I knew your grandfather when he could hardly speak English but spoke baseball fluently with his neighbors. I knew your father when he was given his first glove, when he played in the street and in vacant lots, from morning till dusk. And I'm getting to know your son, who puts on his team's catcher's gear like it's a suit of armor.
Don't you recognize my voice? It's in the buzz of the fans that you hear on the radio, and the crack of the bat. It's vendors hawking peanuts and sodas, kids squealing on a playground, moms and dads rooting for their kids to get a hit.
I was there long before the Black Sox, and I'm still here. I was there before Jackie Robinson, in every league in the land, and I'm still here. I was there before radio and television, before Curt Flood, before the big money, and I'm still here. Tough as horsehide standing its ground against swinging wood, I am baseball, and will be here as long as people let me into their lives.
You know me now, don't you? I am baseball, the summer game, alive, sturdy as a family tree.
GENE CARNEY, a native of Pittsburgh, writes about baseball "in the shadows of Cooperstown" in upstate New York. His book Burying the Black Sox earned the Larry Ritter Award in 2007 from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). "You Know Me, Dont You?" appears in A Baseball Family Album, a collection of his work published earlier this year by Pocol Press.
© 2008 Gene Carney
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