I love the speech James Earl Jones gives above in the movie Field of Dreams. Baseball really has marked the times in our country. People have been playing the sport as far back as the civil war. The game survived the depression. It helped break down racial barriers in the country with all that Jackie Robinson did on and off the field. It was a huge part of our nation's recovery after 9/11. Baseball still marks the time today. I know we currently live in a world ruled by the NFL. I know that baseball is not nearly as popular now as it has been in the past and currently is undergoing a public relations nightmare with all the steroid news. I also know that there are few things that can create and nurture a more meaningful and lasting relationship between father and son.
As we come to the beginning of spring training for 2009, I wanted to reflect a little bit on what baseball has meant to me and what I hope it will mean to Braden. Four of my favorite words in the English language will be heard around America in the coming days. Those words are "pitchers and catchers report." Those words signal that winter is nearing an end and spring time is on the way. For baseball fans spring training represents a rebirth. No matter what happened last year every fan is filled with the optimism and promise of a new season. My beloved St. Louis Cardinals will report on Saturday to start pursuit of an 11th world series title, however unlikely. Every year I treat the first day of spring training like a holiday and it just so happens that the holiday is coming this weekend.
Baseball has been a big part of my life as long as I can remember. I started playing when I was 6 and played all the way through high school. I was not good enough to continue after that but my love for the game remains. Baseball represented some of the best times my Dad and I ever spent together. He was one of my coaches every year and was my head coach from ages 9-12. Through baseball my dad taught me about team work. Through baseball he taught me about hard work and practice. Baseball teaches young men about dealing with success and failure as well. No one wants to see their child fail but it is certain to happen no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Baseball can help children learn to handle that. My dad and I also went to watch the Cardinals play in St. Louis nearly every summer. We would watch 2 or 3 games on a weekend and do little else. There was nothing we would rather do than watch a big league ball game anyway. The first time I saw the Cardinals play was against the Padres in 1986. Much to my delight the Cardinals won all three games. Arica and I still take a trip every summer to see at least one game. My brother and I also share a baseball relationship. Shortly after he learned to walk I taught him to hit a soft Nerf ball with a snoopy bat in our parents house. We kept playing together until I left for college. Baseball is still one of our favorite topics of discussion.
As you can tell I love the game. It has been a big part of my family and ultimately my entire life. Lessons I learned on the diamond carry on with me today. I can't wait for Braden to be old enough to play with me. I will love teaching him to hit and field. Later we will learn about the small nuances of the game. Hopefully I will get a chance to coach him some too. One day taking Braden to his first Cardinals games will be one of the greatest trips of my life. I have dreamed of bringing my own son to a game since long before I even had a son. This is the power over father and son that baseball holds. I know Braden and I will share it as a part of our life. I hope some of you that read this will share the game with your kids too. Join in the time honored tradition of father and son playing catch. Take the whole family out to a local game. Baseball has stood the test of time and we should all enjoy it.