For the true baseball fan it has been a long, arduous winter. A time usually reserved for blockbuster trades and destiny changing free agent signings was hijacked by George Mitchell, Roger Clemens, and a Congress that we all wished would show the vigor they demonstrated in their faux hearings perusing something slightly more politically relevant.
Sure there was the Santana signing, ol’ Joe Torre finally taking his ball and leaving (or getting fired, which ever way you want to spin it) and bolting for L.A., and the Tigers snatching Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis out of nowhere, instantaneously giving them a lineup that conjures up memories of the Greenberg, Gehringer, and Cochrane teams of the '30s.
In any other off-season these moves would have been prime hot stove material. But with baseball fans cringing as reports, books, and testimony destroyed the mythology of childhood idols on a seemingly daily basis, the excitement from these off-season dealings didn’t generate the normal enthusiasm and optimism; the hot stove was definitely much less intellectually sizzling then usual.
There is only one cure for that which ails the baseball purist; one remedy for the steroidal darkness that wisped in with the biting winter winds.
As the hot sun baths the perfectly manicured, sprawling, green grass that stretches across the outfield of Ed Smith field in Sarasota Florida, the memories of Mitchell slowly fade into the distance.
As the breeze blows in off the warm gulf waters the heartbreak of the Clemens saga begins to feel like a bad nightmare, or a memory that can be repressed deep into the subconscious.
And then gliding across the grass, a figure moves with the effortless ease that exudes agelessness. Clad in an untarnished uniform of Cincinnati white and red, he is a figurative embodiment of an idealistic purity that the true fan – in a knowingly foolish way – still believes in.
And then it hits you, like a metaphoric ton of brinks; a startling proximity revelation that results in a new perspective in the realization of one’s own true age. In other words you suddenly remember that “The Kid” is now 38 years old.
It feels like a short time ago when Ken Griffey, Jr. roamed center field for the ball club in Seattle. Immediately it was evident that his talent was unique.