Friday, March 10, 2006

The Scent of Spring, The Change of Season

I usually wear a windbreaker in the mornings -- it's borrowed it from work, sewn from light breathable material and hemmed with the guilt of stolen office paraphernalia, but dang if it ain't comfy. Today, however, I had no need for it. I stepped out of my ramshackle apartment and into the embrace of the sun, seemingly for the first time since I moved down. It was an untold 70 degrees outside, a regular Pennsylvania summer. I was, and am, in heaven.

The smell of spring is delightful; a mix of grass, warmth, moisture and moss, greeny and grasping at your nostrils as the seasons change. Per the usual association of smell and memory, my mind's floodgates open, and suddenly I am transported to the baseball fields of York county.

Baseball was a regular pattern of my life as a kid, regular as the seasons and constant as the sun. I loved to play and my dad had a large role in the local league, organizing and coaching. I was too young to really understand what he did most of the time (other than stock the snack bar), but I certainly remember helping to prep the fields with home run mix and chalk.

As a sport, baseball steps into a few pitches these days, from the slow speed to the juiced jocks, but as with many other passions in life, it's the actual experience that matters, not public opinion. There are so few things that can replace the feeling of a game on beautiful spring day, and the work that goes into making it happen.

The preparation of a baseball field is akin to a fresh mowed lawn, a perfectly chlorinated pool, a rose bush trimmed to perfection. Each time you chalk the base paths, reset the rubber mound or wet the batter's box, your skills at the craft improve a tiny bit. Men in their late 70s are now renaissance masters, their instinct for the perfect mix of dirt and dust has been honed by years of the game.

As a kid, I had no talent for building a pitcher's mound. I just liked dragging the field. At professional games, around the 7th inning or so, they'll send a bunch of energetic youngsters out with large mesh screens dragging behind them, sorting out clumps (or even rocks) in the dirt. When I was helping my dad, we didn't have a team of guys to do it, so a length of chain link fence or metal mesh was tied to the back of a lawn tractor. The tractor operator, usually my dad but later on I took a few rides, would do lazy circles around the field, slowly spiraling in towards the pitchers mound. From a bird's eye view, the field would look like rows of crops, freshly tilled. A part of me was planted there, that I know for sure.

Part of me, as an adult, wishes I could do it all over again. Not to hit more home runs or to win that last game, but to simply see the game then as I see it now. I'm sure that's why my dad jumped back on the tractor, game after game, season after season.

Good game, boys, let's all go for ice cream.


Blogger Erin Lawrence said...

this one really got me.. right here (fist to heart) it might be the chu-hi or it might be my own sweet spring longing for pennsylvania. can`t say i ever dragged a pitcher`s mound, but i have lugged many an army bag crammed with helmets in my day (my dad was a coach too :)

7:55 AM  

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