Itís time to head north. Some of us will be jetting our way into the big leagues, but most of us will be riding buses between small towns. Thatís just the way it is. Either we arenít quite ready yet, or weíre a little past our prime. For some of us this is the first chance to show what we can do. For others, this is our last shot.
The sounds of spring that now echo through Arizona and Florida will soon be heard all across the country. Once again, a mere game will be taken seriously by millions, and the dreams we had as children will be played out daily on patches of pastoral green in the midst of great, harsh cities. We carry the history of America with us, along with bats, balls and gloves.
As we do every year, we all start out equal. The prospects are the same for all of us, although the reality will turn out to be different. But everyone has a chance to succeed, and every team has the potential to be great in one way or another. In this way we share the hope we have for ourselves with all who would take the journey with us.
That hope is our greatest attraction. That hope is bigger than the biggest superstar, and more powerful than the faults and failures we share with the rest of society. Money canít buy it, this hope, nor can greed tarnish it. One person is not more important than the game itself, and the least likely, lowest-paid player has as much chance to win (or lose) any given game as any of the most famous names seen in the daily headlines.
The basic elements of the game we play have changed little in a century and a half. Our grandfathers, and their grandfathers, played it almost exactly as we do. On the field, thereís not much difference. Our grandfathers didnít have to speak to the press after the game, and they didnít have a post-game spread in the clubhouse, and they couldnít watch their highlights on late-night television.
But on the field, they caught pop-ups and ran out grounders and lost fly balls in the sun and slid into home plate, just like us. And like us, some were safe and some were out.