The last fling of winter with its overcoats in the evening and silver frost-rimmed mornings appears to have left us at last. In its wake is the wetness of spring: wet feet tracking mud across the porch, wet garden dirt so heavy that the shovel can scarcely turn it over, wet fallen branches waiting to be shimmied to the road for pickup.
As winter moves on, it leaves more than early lettuce and the awakening of the fire ant. Spring training begins and once again the ritual of baseball returns to us.
But the transitory self that I am is cut off from daily televised games with my old favorite baseball teams. Over my half century in New York, I could be a bit fickle with my cheering. Still I always had a team.
As the child of my mother, I was raised to stand with the Pittsburgh Pirates and hate the New York Yankees. Indeed, we rooted for any team that played against the Bombers.
As the wife of a newspaper man, I heard the virtues of the other side. Over time, and admiring the good looks of shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriguez, I went over to the dark side. By now my mother had lived in upstate New York much longer than in the Keystone State and became a die heart New York Mets fan. I wisely kept my betrayal with the Yankees to myself but followed the Mets so we had something to talk about during our Sunday night phone calls.
All this brings me to yet another team decision. Coverage of Yankee and Met games in Northern Mississippi is both erratic and infrequent. The only team showing up regularly on evening television in Water Valley is the Atlanta Braves.
Nevertheless, hot summer nights would seem quiet without baseball, without a team to follow. Cool summer mornings would lack the routine of checking the standings, reading about a rival’s slump with secret glee.
Is that enough missing to start over? Do I want to commit, practice a chant, swing an Indian chop? Or learn a new pitcher’s rhythm with inside, up and away, fastball, curve ball, caught him looking?
Have I the heart to fall in love with an outfielder only to have him traded before the deadline? What kind of a guy is this Brian Snitker, will I be yelling in disagreement over his choice of cleanup hitter and when to pull an out-of-gas pitcher?
Checking the schedule, I found a game with the Washington Nationals and took my dinner to the television set. Before I had cleaned my plate, Preston Tucker had driven a three-run homer. Well now, my favorite games are pitching duels holding the score to zip zip at the top of the ninth, but in auditioning a new obsession, three runs on one swing in the bottom of the first had my attention.
There are many things one doesn’t consider in relocating, in leaving the North for the South, leaving one of the biggest cities for one of the smallest, leaving pinstripes for Chief Noc-A-Homa.
But as winter fades, watermelon seeds go into the ground and wildflowers line the roads, a new alliance in the South may be forming to sustain an old love of the North.