On To Baseball, And (Eventually) Summer

Today the 2018 Major League Baseball season starts.  On Opening Day, fans of every team can approach the new season with optimism that this might just be the year for their team to win it all.

1cfa76df7b9fae74e7898045efb9d360Fans of the Cleveland Indians, like Russell and UJ and me, are hoping that, on this 70th anniversary of the Tribe’s last World Series title, this might be the year that the team ends a very long drought.  With the winless streak now celebrating its 70th birthday, we think it’s time for its mandatory retirement.  And after last season, where Cleveland won more than 100 games but lost to the Damn Yankees in the playoffs, Tribe fans are hoping that the team has the pieces in place to make another legitimate run for the championship banner.

But Tribe fans are not alone, of course.  The start of baseball season is great, because every baseball fan everywhere feels inward optimism about their squad, even if they won’t admit it publicly.  Lightning can and does strike.  Sometimes teams just gel, and unlikely heroes emerge, and rookie phenoms actually pan out.  Every year, it seems, there is a Cinderella story, and at the start of the season every fan hopes that their team will end up donning the glass slipper.  The sense of hopefulness and possibility is intoxicating — but also can be brief and ruined by reality.

This year, though, at least for those of us in the Midwest and East who’ve been enduring the Winter that Won’t Go Away,  there’s another reason to celebrate the arrival of baseball’s Opening Day.  If the Summer Game is finally here, we can hope that summer itself isn’t far behind.

Advertisements

In Today’s Nor’easter

I was in Pittsburgh for meetings today, and the grim, icy grip old Old Man Winter was everywhere in evidence. Pittsburgh was one of the cities in the path of the last (we hope) nor’easter in this endless winter, and it was getting pounded with blizzard-like conditions and what appeared to be about a foot of snow.

I set off to drive home with some trepidation, hoping I wouldn’t get stranded on the road back to Columbus. Fortunately, by the time I hit I-70 the snow really wasn’t bad, and when I crossed the Ohio state line there was no snow at all.

Pittsburgh, however, was another matter.

Dreaming Of A White . . . Spring?

It’s very Christmas-like in Pittsburgh this morning, with snow-covered treetops and landscape, and still more snow falling. Too bad it’s March 21, and officially the start of spring, rather than December 25!

Every time we think we’ve finally turned the corner on this crummy winter, another storm and cold snap gives us a wallop. The Stark Clan with their annoying “Winter Is Coming” saying would love the American Midwest this year. Of course, if they showed up here in their fancy fur-trimmed duds and used that phrase, they’d probably get slugged in the jaw.

Enough, already! It’s time for Mother Earth to start tilting on her axis in earnest and give us some relief from this Winter That Just Won’t End.

Hopeful Signs

After this cold, dank, never-ending winter, a sighting of the first flowers heralding spring is very welcome. These hardy crocuses, which are traditionally among the first flowers to bloom in our region, sprouted between two bricks to greet the sun’s rays on a dazzling day.

It is wonderful to see a splash of bright color and sunshine after months of wintry gloom.

Beachless Winter

Over the past few years, we’ve gotten into the habit of trying to put a little beach into our Midwestern winters.  At least once during the cold months, we’ve gone somewhere that allows us to puts toes in the sand, drink a pina colada or two, listen to some steel drum music, and mostly revel in baking heat and glorious sunshine.

hammock between palm trees on untouched beach in the CaribbeanAnd we’ve done a good job of picking the weeks we’ve gone, too.  One year we missed a crushing ice storm that knocked out power to many homes and left people scrambling for alternative lodging in local hotels until power could be restored.  Another year we missed a freakish spate of ultra cold weather.  In both cases, when we returned from our trips, happy and rested and relaxed, and learned about the crappy weather we’d missed, we felt especially grateful for our beach sojourns and shared a secret smile about it even as we listened sympathetically to our neighbors and friends telling us how bad things had been.

This year, though, we decided not to go with the beach trip.  That was a mistake.   A terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad mistake.

As a result, we’ve been exposed to unrelenting months of cold, bleak weather in every form the creative Mother Nature can devise — snow, frigid temperatures for weeks at a time, freezing rain, and blustery, driving showers with temperatures in the 40s.  The last bit of weather might be the worst of all, leaving you feeling raw and red-faced.  Who really likes windy, rainy days in the 40s?  And, because it’s the Midwest, almost all of these forms of weather were delivered with the accompaniment of gray, overcast skies that feel like a funeral shroud has been tossed over the world.

With each passing year, having even brief exposure to bright sunshine, blue skies, and blue water seems more and more important, just to break up the winter months into two manageable chunks and give us some warm weather to eagerly anticipate.  It’s nice to know that we’re now in March, and the nice spring weather is just around the corner, but Kish and I have vowed that we’ve learned our lesson:  next winter, we’re going to hit the beach again.  No excuses.

Mainely Winter

I guess it just wasn’t cold enough for us in Columbus, so Kish and I came up to Maine for a short visit, looking for even more wintry weather.

We found it. Here in Stonington, many of the boats and docks have been pulled out of the water and stored — even if it means just placing them on the nearest rocky outcropping — and the temperature is so cold that rocks along the waterfront are sheathed in briny ice. It’s bleak and beautiful, all at the same time.

Bigfoot In Winter

Yesterday I took a bit of a tumble on my way to work.  We had gotten about four inches of snow right at rush hour, the Columbus snow plow crews hadn’t gotten the streets cleared, and as I was crossing an unplowed side street my foot skidded.  Fortunately, I caught myself on one hand and one knee, so I didn’t go completely horizontal.  It’s the first slip and fall I’ve experienced in years of walking to work during the winter.

122613122I flatter myself that this good fortune is attributed to careful walking techniques, like using the small-step penguin mode on especially icy days and looking ahead for the best place to plant your foot as you stride, and having finely honed, catlike reflexes that react immediately to any sign of a skid.  But in reality, it’s probably because I’m gifted with unusually large, almost perfectly flat feet.  Shoe size typically correlates with height, and the average shoe size for a six-foot male in America is reported to be 10.5.  I typically have to buy size 12 or 12.5, depending on the make of the shoe, and my feet have no discernible arch.

Being at the upper range of shoe sizes can make finding shoes difficult — at a recent visit to one of those huge shoe emporiums, I had a tough time finding footwear my size and saw lots of 8s, 9s, and 10s, and not many 12s — but it’s useful during the winter months.  The larger feet have a lot more surface contact with the snowy ground than the average foot and act like quasi-snowshoes, so I might experience a small skid but can catch myself before it turns into a full-blown slip and fall.

When you think about it, the advantages of large foot size in snowy conditions should be obvious.  There’s a reason the elusive Yeti has evolved to haunt snow-covered climes and is reportedly seen from time in time in the Himalaya or the mountains of the American West.  It’s why, in America, we call him Bigfoot.