The Cap on Summer, a baseball wrap-up
I suspect that most of us who returned to Bowdoin on August 22nd felt as if they were in a similar state of limbo; not knowing whether to be angry because house orientation had so flagrantly encroached on the waning days of summer vacation, or to rejoice in the opportunity to reunite with friends and fellow house leaders without the burden of homework, tests, and campus wide parties resting over our heads. Without doubt, the majority of those living in college houses probably have the latter opinion. We are willing to sacrifice a few hours a day to corny icebreakers and sensitivity training if it means that we can enjoy quality time with people that we have not seen in three months.
It is these fun times that make up for the hot hours spent in meetings. Although there is inherent enjoyment in going to the beach, the "giant steps," or the Portland Seadogs, often they activate our nostalgic genes. We yearn for these escape clauses in the contract of daily life so that not only can we reflect on our own lives but imagine what will come after Bowdoin.
Recently, I attended "Field of Dreams" Day at Hadlock Field in Portland. My friends and I were fortunate enough to ascend to our seats at the moment that the players were striding from an artificial cornfield in centerfield to the pre-game position lined up along the first and third base foul lines. As more of the players trickled into the stands to shake hands with fans, I saw two players solitarily playing catch in the outfield. It reminded me of the scene at the end of the film "Field of Dreams" where the Kevin Costner character, Ray Kinsella, plays catch with his father, whom Ray had successfully resurrected by carving a field out of his own cornfield. Ray is, of course, motivated to sacrifice his own land by the now ubiquitous phrase: "if you build it, he will come." Ray nearly bankrupts himself and his family just so he can use baseball as a medium to reunite himself with his father.
We see through this film how baseball has such power in our society. The games and fields become spiritual and sacred. Many Americans hold the game in almost nirvanic stature. When one thinks of how one enters a field from the clubhouse, one can even draw a connection from the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus says that those who go to heaven will "walk through the narrow door." Former baseball commissioner the late A. Bartlett Giamatti used his background in classical literature to show that the word "paradise" has its origins "in an ancient Persian word meaning an enclosed park or green space"(Source: Bunts , George F. Will, c1998, Touchstone). Most males have fond memories of their fathers taking them to their first baseball game as a young child. At Hadlock last weekend, I counted nearly ten boys all roughly under the age of seven sitting in our section. To a person, they were all accompanied by their father. Many were wearing a Seadogs hat and holding a glove, in anxious anticipation of catching a foul ball.
There are a variety of reasons why baseball is undeniably the American game. No sport has preserved its traditions and rules more so than baseball. With the exception of the designated hitter, there has been no major change to the rules of the game since its inception in the 1840s. Also, no game is more seasonally appropriate than baseball. There is something that just seems inherently right about sitting outside on a comfortable summer afternoon and relaxing while enjoying a sport that is not regulated by a clock.
Thus for me baseball is the quintessential relaxation activity as my summer vacation winds down. It inspires me to think that one day I will bring a child of mine to a ballpark and I have faith that the game will be the same as the first time that my father went to Briggs Stadium in Detroit or when I sat in Fenway Park for the first time holding my glove and wearing my cap.