It was usually with a bowl of breakfast cereal bathed in a cup of milk next to the sports page of Cleveland's morning newspaper my routine would begin on the opening day of Cleveland Indians baseball.
I would dive into the stories about the new season as hungrily as I had dived into the bowl of Cheerios layered with sliced bananas. Opening Day was always on a school day, but my thoughts were mostly of baseball and how my hometown team would do in the new season. In their own homes, I knew my childhood buddies were doing the same thing as they bypassed the front page of The Plain Dealer and ran straight for Sports.
What we read about the new season would be discussed on the way to school, in school, on the way home, or in the playground after we had put our books away.
Some things don't change
I felt it all again today as the Cleveland Indians open the 2017 season in a night game in Texas against the Rangers.
Today at breakfast, I read the digital version of the newspaper on my iPad. The 2017 Indians team is expected to be in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs again.
All the sportswriters point to the Indians as being the team which should win the American League Pennant as Cleveland did last season, only to lose the World Series title to the Chicago Cubs in a seventh and deciding game.
With every bite of my breakfast cereal this morning, I gulped down Spring training statistics and stories of expectation about the Indians. I still savor those well-written articles by veteran sportswriters as I did when I was a kid growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
My colleagues in television do wonderful jobs with their stories, but I do enjoy the written word. It satisfies me, as well, because I can read and re-read their stuff, savoring descriptions of the players and their abilities to perform on the field. Some of the best writing I have ever read has come from scribes who follow the action on the field, court, or rink.
If I could, I would return to the days after school when my friends and I would comment on the Indians ballgame as we tossed a baseball back and forth in the schoolyard, getting our arms loose for our own seasons of baseball. In between throws, we would comment on the lineup, the manager, and what it will take to be competitive on the field.
Baseball was a game which brought us all together. In some form or another, we played the game almost any day where there was not a lot of snow on the ground. Even if there was snow around the edges of the schoolyard, we could toss a ball back and forth. Even during the times when I was alone, I could take a baseball-size rubber ball and fling it against the school building wall, catching its bounce back as if it were a hot grounder skittering across and infield.
"Bibb backhands the hot grounder and fires it to first base. Just in time with a great throw by the third baseman," I would say aloud as I handled the ball while at the same time, pretending to be the broadcast announcer calling the game.
The Indians team is expected to be in the thick of the American League Central this year. Years ago, regardless of where the team ended, we boys stayed with our team. Winning is important, but the game itself is more important.
My friends and I are now mature men with grey hair and wider waistlines. We are all in different professions or have retired from the jobs we had during our adult lives. Still, when we talk on the phone, or e-mail each other, or get together for various reasons, the subject of Cleveland Indians baseball comes up.
On occasion, we will meet on the sidewalk of our old neighborhood, from which we have all moved, and we will play games of catch again. It is as if we never really left each other, or the neighborhood, or the game.
It is interesting how Major League's baseball opener, brings all those thoughts to mind. But I knew that the new season would do that.
As I write these words just a few hours before the first pitch of the Cleveland Indians game against the Texas Rangers, I can feel the words begin to well up in me. I know they will come. They always do. I say them with nostalgia. I say them as I relish those moments of my childhood. I say them as a prayer of thanksgiving for having been given a wonderful childhood where Cleveland Indians baseball and the game itself played so important a part in my life and the lives of my friends. The words come with deep emotion for the way we were.
I say: "Hey! Throw me the ball. It's time for a game."
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