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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Itís time to head north. Some of us will be jetting our way into the big leagues, but most of us will be riding buses between small towns. Thatís just the way it is. Either we arenít quite ready yet, or weíre a little past our prime. For some of us this is the first chance to show what we can do. For others, this is our last shot.

The sounds of spring that now echo through Arizona and Florida will soon be heard all across the country. Once again, a mere game will be taken seriously by millions, and the dreams we had as children will be played out daily on patches of pastoral green in the midst of great, harsh cities. We carry the history of America with us, along with bats, balls and gloves.

As we do every year, we all start out equal. The prospects are the same for all of us, although the reality will turn out to be different. But everyone has a chance to succeed, and every team has the potential to be great in one way or another. In this way we share the hope we have for ourselves with all who would take the journey with us.

That hope is our greatest attraction. That hope is bigger than the biggest superstar, and more powerful than the faults and failures we share with the rest of society. Money canít buy it, this hope, nor can greed tarnish it. One person is not more important than the game itself, and the least likely, lowest-paid player has as much chance to win (or lose) any given game as any of the most famous names seen in the daily headlines.

The basic elements of the game we play have changed little in a century and a half. Our grandfathers, and their grandfathers, played it almost exactly as we do. On the field, thereís not much difference. Our grandfathers didnít have to speak to the press after the game, and they didnít have a post-game spread in the clubhouse, and they couldnít watch their highlights on late-night television.

But on the field, they caught pop-ups and ran out grounders and lost fly balls in the sun and slid into home plate, just like us. And like us, some were safe and some were out.

27 March 2005

Aiden climbs over his daddy.

Thereís a cloud hanging over us as we head north this spring. We all see it and know what itís about. It worries us, to different degrees. We admit it, to different degrees. But the game we play is indestructible. It has survived scandals in the past, but it has also helped lead the country out of dark times. We rallied behind the Yankees in 2001, and we learned from Jackie Robinson more than we thought we needed to know. And every April, we remind people to hope that come this October, their team will be playing for glory.

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The major league baseball season doesnít start officially until the game this Sunday night between (who else?) the Yankees and Red Sox. But most teams are leaving their spring training homes in the next two days and will play their final preseason games in big league parks over the weekend. The Giants open the season next Tuesday against the Dodgers. You know what that means: I have something important to do three hours a day for the next six months.

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