Thursday, May 31, 2007

Opening Day Night

There's something about Opening Day. Even if it's at night. And even if it's for a semi-pro team comprised of collegiate players, most of whom will only set foot in a major league stadium if they buy a ticket.

But there's something pure about the game. There's a certain nostalgia embodied in the layers of thick paint that coat the steel railings; a unique odor of brats and ballpark franks that will linger, if only in the mind, long after the fans have gone home.

They conjure a feeling that is as pure as the joy of stopping to watch a father play catch with his son after the game is over and the players have left the field. A son who may be too small to hold the regulation-size bat of his heroes, but who swings just as mightily at his hopeful father's playful toss.

We're lucky in northern Wisconsin. We have the Woodchucks nearby in Wausau. A couple of hours to the east, we can always visit the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Class A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. A few hours to the southeast awaits Miller Park, the major league cathedral that houses the Milwaukee Brewers. But we're lucky not because of the easy commutes to "better" baseball. We're lucky for the humble ball diamonds that dot the countryside in between. American Legion, Little League, rec leagues and random gatherings of kids who don't bother with "uniforms" and "rules."

Somewhere there is a son playing catch with his dad. And that's the best game there is.

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