Just Two Months Before Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training

I miss baseball, y’all. And I don’t mean in the way you miss a favorite TV show before the new season starts or the way you long for how the pizza place on the corner used to make the best pizza around before switching to the sauce that’s too sweet. I mean I really, truly, honestly miss baseball. I miss getting home at 6:15 and knowing that pre-game starts in fifteen minutes. I miss knowing that there is always, always something on television. I miss the sound of the crowd and the way Jerry Remy butchers the Spanish language by saying “Buenos noches, amigos” while demonstrating how to use the SAP button. I miss how you can always hear that nutbag in Tampa Bay who sits right behind the plate and picks one opposing player to rag on for the entire series. I miss shots of Terry Francona rocking back and forth like Rain Man on Vicodin in the dugout. I miss arguments with my ex-boyfriend over whether or not Johnny Damon is the best lead-off hitter in the AL, besides Ichiro (yes, yes his is and don’t even give me the Derek Jeter argument). I miss the clever patterns the groundskeepers cut into the grass. And yes, I miss Jason Varitek’s thighs. But mostly, I just miss the game.

It’d be easy to say that I miss it because this season ended so well for my team. Not that “well,” is the proper word for it. More like “nearly two months later I still break out into spontaneous giggles when I catch a glimpse of the David Ortiz Wheaties box that sits on top of my TV.” But in truth, the winning probably makes me miss baseball less. Last year, I missed them even more. And it wasn’t because of the losing. Sure, that hurt but, come on, Aaron Boone? I missed baseball because as soon as Boone’s shot cleared the upper deck it hit me, I would have to go a whole five months without seeing my boys again. A whole five months without a chance to avenge a loss. A whole five months without hanging out with my friends.

I know, it sounds pathetic. But when you spend an entire seven months, day in and day out reading about, following and watching the same twenty-five men (with the occasional Cesar Crespo and Lenny Dinardo thrown in for good measure), you start to really care about them. And not just their batting average. You notice little things about them that only seasoned fans see. You know that Varitek always turns his toes in when he hits from the left side and you know that Kevin Millar wiggles his bat back and forth to the point where it actually extends in front of his batting helmet. You know that Papi always spits on his left hand and slaps his palms together in between pitches and you spend an inordinate amout of time wondering after the poor soul who has to collect his batting gloves. You know that Cabrera scoots down until he looks like a tiny, wiry, compact spring ready to pounce and before The Trade, you could imitate Nomar’s OCD batting routine right down to the last toe tap. You wonder if Mark Bellhorn even knows what inning it is and if he’d get to first base faster if you told him the opposing team’s uniforms were covered in Cheeto dust because brother looks stoned.

I miss this.

I miss the arguments that go along with baseball. I miss the way my dad and I call each other after every big game and dissect, nearly pitch for pitch what just happened. Hot stove discussions and arguments are one thing but there are only so many times I can have the “Jason Varitek isn’t worth $10 million a year,” “Yes he is, I can’t hear you, LA LA LA!” argument before it’s time to move on. That’s the great thing about baseball. There’s something new to dissect and discuss and spit about and swear at and research and scream at and argue over every night.

I miss getting into it with Yankees fans and giving them that look. The look that says, “Were there not laws expressly forbidding such behavior, I would very much enjoy ripping off your head with my bare hands and stuffing it down your neck sideways.” I miss having a nemesis. Trades and Winter Meetings and attempted out-maneuverings are fine but the game is still played on the field and “Ha! We swiped Curt Schilling from under your nose!” doesn’t have quite the same satisfaction to it if Curt Schilling does not then proceed to march out onto the field and make you look like a bunch of flailing beginner swimmers in the batters’ box.

I miss loving Johnny Damon unconditionally even if, just maybe, he’s more than a little insane and he keeps running into things with abandon. Walls, fences, other players. I miss his hair and the fact that at every Sox game, no matter where they were playing, you would find a group of people dressed up in wigs and beards and calling themselves the Damon Disciples. I miss weirdos.

I even miss Pedro’s antics and the histrionics the local media gets into every year when he leaves early for the All-Star break. He may be a Dominican Diva but he’s our Dominican Diva. For now, anyway.

And I don’t just feel this missing so acutely because of my fan affiliation or rooting interests. I spent a week this past summer traveling from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay to Atlanta to check out the ballparks. Only one – Atlanta – involved the Red Sox. I loved just sitting in the stands in Philly with a watered down ballpark beer and a $1 hotdog (I know!) and just watching a meaningless June game between the underachieving Phillies and the hapless Expos because for once, I didn’t have to work myself into a fanatical fit over who would win the game. Each pitch was not greeted with a gasp and each hit did not induce dry-heaving. I was just enjoying the game.

It sounds so pastoral and so very “The Boys of Summer” but I miss caring so much about something that, really, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t mean that much. I miss spending a good six hours a day either watching, reading about or someone related to the information gathering of baseball. I miss peppering daily conversations or emails to my dad with phrases like “Manny’s hammies” or “Pokey’s range.” I miss my righteous snits wherein I scream unintelligible things like, “Goddamit, Bellhorn, YOUAREAWASTEOFSPACE!” and throwing the pasta spoon across the kitchen. I miss burning garlic bread because I can’t see the television from the kitchen and every time I hear Don Orsillo say, “Full count, runners are going,” I have to drop whatever I’m doing and rush in front of the TV to see the payoff. I miss inflicting pain on my couch pillows and dancing in my bedroom to the strains of “Dirty Water” when things end well.

I miss bars and beers and the fact that you can run up to strangers wearing the same hat as you and scream “Papi!” into their face and you’re liable to be greeted with a high-five rather than a restraining order. I miss the ups and downs, the slumps and streaks, the wins and losses. I miss my boys. I miss baseball.

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