The Boys of Summer Are Back

Another Opening Day has arrived, and I feel like celebrating my home team’s return to action. From the day after the final game of the World Series each year, I’m lamenting the lack of baseball on TV, counting down the days until the next spring training. Sadly, even though I live in the heart of Cactus League action, I seldom make it out to a spring game anymore, what with kids’ school schedules and the crowds. But my anticipation rises from the moment pitchers and catchers report.

The Cincinnati Reds were the closest Major League team to my tiny hometown, and I’m old enough to remember folks speaking in reverential tones about the Big Red Machine. Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez… boys and girls alike crowed about their heroes on the playground. These were the days long before cable, never mind a zillion satellite sports channels, and watching the infrequent televised games depended on whether our antenna could pick up the signal from that far away. As a child, I remember my father sitting in the darkness on the front porch, his AM radio tuned to WLW, sipping bourbon and smoking a cigar while listening to Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall call the games, the racket of frogs and crickets nearly drowning out the radio. Once a summer, our family would make the trek to Riverfront Stadium, and it was a big, daylong deal.

Nowadays, I live within fifteen minutes of Chase Field. Being a fan of baseball is something my husband and I share, a love of which we’re trying to impart to our children, just like my dad did with me. We watch our beloved Diamondbacks slog through the NL West, through good years and lean years, like true hometown fans ought. Baseball’s got everything, we tell our boys: history, math, science, superstition.

But the part I enjoy most, I think, is watching that special brand of male camaraderie that baseball offers, that I just never see much of from any other “professional” sport. Baseball players seem like real guys to me, more so than many other paid athletes. I take note of their dugout interactions, their on-field antics and heroics, their drive and intensity—all of which helps inform how I create and build my fictional male characters (none of whom are professional athletes).

How has the American pastime (if such a thing exists anymore) affected you?