Hopes for an abundant season

Sandy Moser

April 05, 1993|By Sandy Moser

PERHAPS it was the summer leagues organized by church youth groups, or maybe it was that our trips to the stadium were almost always on Sunday, but in my family -- with apologies to Norman Maclean -- it was hard to separate baseball from religion.

My father was a farmer, which is little more than a clean suit away from being a preacher. His was a life full of prayers -- closed-eye hopes for sunny days, for well-timed rain. Hard work is religious: Dad had faith that if he worked long days and lived honestly, his rewards would come at the end of the season.

His faith in just rewards did not extend to baseball. He had seen fate deal harshly with his team -- cold bats, lucky catches by the opposition, bad calls.

Baseball, like farming, was everyday, filling our summer days and evenings.

At night, after planting all day, Dad reached first for the sports section of the paper. The weather and the hay prices came later. He closed his eyes as he turned the pages, praying that his team would play in glory come September. He prayed less fervently for his crops.

I believe he read the sports page first because he never doubted that he could have played ball. He had followed in his father's footsteps, but they led him to a different field.

He often pointed out how similar those two fields were. Baseball players shared Dad's schedule. Spring training coincided roughly with first plowing. They sweated through the summer together, pulling through the slumps. There were weeks of hitless days and rainless nights, World Series titles as Dad harvested his own rewards.

If baseball was religious, the catcher was closest to God. Dad loved the catchers; it might have had something to do with his closeness to the earth. Dad could sympathize with him for his sore knees, his anxious bouncing over the plate.

"The best game is behind the plate," Dad told us, sitting in his big chair, rubbing his sore knees.

"A hitter takes what's thrown him," Dad said. "A catcher makes each pitch his own. He moves the ball, makes it look lower, pulls it over the corner of the plate. He isn't happy with just calling the pitch. He makes it what he wants.

"A good catcher make a pitcher better, and he never gets the glory," Dad said, looking out to his fields.

I thought about his own work, the way he took what was given him, the way he made it better.

The fields are getting green and full. I look to the clipped sprigs of grass.

I hope for a long, abundant season.

Sandy Moser writes from Baltimore.

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