Let’s forget, for a moment, how many problems baseball has. They get a lot of attention, rightfully so.
For better or for worse, sports have always been about basking in something bigger than ourselves. Just for right now, let’s talk about the better. I need to talk about better today.
Let’s talk about how it feels to see a pitcher absolutely dominate an inning, the way Chris Sale did when he became the first pitcher since Lefty Grove to throw two immaculate innings in the same season this year. The way Mariano Rivera, in all his glory, would completely shut down opposing batters’ hopes and dreams. The way Sandy Koufax could go out and pitch Game 7 of the 1965 World Series on just two days’ rest after pitching a shutout Game 5, and pitch a second shutout. The way Pedro was simply Pedro, every start.
Let’s talk about Dustin Pedroia, leaping into the air like the ground beneath him was a trampoline. Nolan Arenado making the hardest outs at 3rd look effortless. Mike Trout and Mookie Betts making impossible throws from the deepest corners of the outfield somehow possible. Jackie Bradley Jr. robbing batters of guaranteed home runs.
And let’s talk about David Ortiz.
I had a rough morning today, just one of those mornings when nothing goes right. And when that happens, there’s one thing that always helps. David Ortiz career highlights. I can watch them for hours. His smile, and the way his teammates gravitated towards him and how he led the team. His powerful, loaded swing. The ball soaring through the air. The number of times outfielders ran into walls and toppled over fences trying in vain, but failing to keep Big Papi from doing what he did better than almost anyone in history.
When my father almost died the summer after my freshman year of college, I watched Red Sox games because I developed insomnia, and was diagnosed with PTSD and severe anxiety. When I was living far from home in Israel and Los Angeles, I watched the Fenway Park 100th Birthday film. When the Red Sox were struggling in the 2013 postseason, I watched the 2004 World Series film. When David Ortiz retired, I watched the 2013 World Series film. When he was shot, I watched everything. Every year on April 20, I watch his speech. “This is our fuckin city,” he declared. President Obama called it one of the proudest moments of his presidency. The FCC refused to fine Papi, because how can you charge someone money for arguably one of the greatest displays of American freedom in the history of this country?
David Ortiz does it. Baseball does it. What is “it?” It is distraction, comfort, the reminder that anything is possible. “It” saved me so many times, and sometimes, when I’m focusing on all of its problems, I forget that.
Field of Dreams said it best:
The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
God, I’m so thankful for baseball.