The sun was shining and the breeze was blowing! There we were, Baltimore Orioles baseball, Opening Day 2014. There couldn’t be a better feeling! Once again, I took my son to the game and we had a blast. After what looked to be a disastrous off-season for the O’s, things seem to have taken shape. A key pitcher was added to the rotation and a big bat to the lineup. The O’s went from pretenders to contenders within a week. That is, on paper of course.
I remember as a child, I would go to as many baseball games as I could. It never got old! Baseball has been my love ever since I can remember. From the time my dad brought that first baseball glove home when I was five to the time way back when that I bought the hitting tool, Johnny Bench Batter-up, all I ever wanted to do was play ball! They call it “America’s Game”. For me there is no better feeling in the world then playing baseball. Whether I am 5 or 50, it’s a chance for me to be a kid again. I loved to hit; I loved to throw; I loved to run. But not for the dough. It was for the love of the game and nothing else. When I think of baseball there is a humming in my heart like that of a tuning fork. The odds of making it to the pros were slim to none and I fell on the side of none. No big deal of course, but baseball is what got me to where I am today.
I went from Northeast Baltimore to Boca Raton, Florida. What a drastic change in cultures it was. From a place of struggling to make it day to day, to a place where the streets were lined with gold. It didn’t matter where though. All I wanted to do was play baseball. In 1987, I received a partial scholarship to play ball in Florida and oh, what ride it was. Figuratively and literally. I left my home in August of 1987 in my 1978 LTDII. Vinyl seats and my 8-track player. I had one tape, AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock”. Eleven hundred miles and twenty hours ahead of me, to get to what would be my place of residence for the next three years, Florida Atlantic University, home of the “Owls”.
It was an extremely hot summer day! About ten hours into the ride the air conditioning in my car went up. No worries, I was going to Florida to play the game I loved. I rolled the windows down and cranked up the tunes. “For Those About To Rock, We Salute You!” I was on my way. Two hours later my car started to overheat. Holy cow! What was I going to do? The way to cool your car down when it is overheating is to turn the heat on. Don’t believe me? Ask your local mechanic. So there I was, hours from my destination, 95 degrees out, 90% humidity. No A/C and I had to keep the heat on to keep the engine cool. Oh, did I mention, the vinyl seats! It was one hell of a sticky ride.
Hours later I pulled into to the parking lot of F.A.U. and the journey began. I walked over to the registration building soaking wet from the previous hours of driving in an oven. I registered for my classes and off to my dorm I went.
There were plenty of ups and downs over the next three years. Three years of school and baseball, not mention, I was living a couple of miles from the beach. The $5000 I took with me was gone in a flash. Nothing was cheap in Boca! The friendships were priceless though. They say the relationships you develop in college are the friendships you will have for life. They were right! The stories, the friends, the good times and the bad times too; I would do it all over again. What more could I ask for?
Before every game the adrenalin would rush through my veins and my stomach would rumble. The neatest feeling for me, was standing in center field and looking up at our Nation’s flag. Listening to the National Anthem and knowing the story behind the writing the Star Spangled Banner would bring chills to my spine. The game was about to begin.
Cut to present day: The O’s won by the slimmest of margins 2-1 on Opening Day. It was a good game on a beautiful day, but it wasn’t about the Orioles winning or losing. It was about listening to our National Anthem, feeling those chills running down my spine and thinking about big Rob, the father, being with little Robbie his son, in the present moment, reliving a cherished past. That’s what Opening day does for me! What does it do for you?
Until next time my friends…..PLAY BALL!