It’s that time of year, springtime in the city, April showers and May flowers, Sunday boils, second line parades, music festivals and church fairs.
I love baseball. Watching it, reading about it, talking about it, writing about it. (What sport lends itself more to overwrought metaphors and purple prose than baseball, right?) But most of all, I still love playing it.
It’s been 20 years since I last laced up my cleats, oiled my glove and gagged myself on a wad of chewing tobacco. Two knee surgeries, hand reconstruction, rehab, three kids and one hell of a hurricane have a way of sidelining even the most ardent devotee.
I was old then, and I am much older now. But I still love to play the game and am even more foolish enough to think I still can. And this spring, I found a group of like-minded delusional geezers.
We are the Diamond Dreams Baseball League, a recreational league for guys over 40. It sounds all shiny and pretty, but it most definitely is not. This is no league of extraordinary gentlemen, to be sure. It’s just a bunch of random guys from around the area – electricians, accountants, business owners, laborers, bankers, fishermen, fathers, grandfathers, retirees – a gathering of old men standing in the sun waiting for something to happen.
Diamond Dreams is for guys who think softball is too, well…soft. Sure, everyone is a little slower, a little fatter and can’t see as well as they used to. We are older, but certainly no wiser, out there every Sunday morning risking our knees and backs – and in some cases, marriages – against the advice of our loved ones who – not without merit – believe baseball is a young man’s game.
So this all might sound pretty foolish but consider this: How many guys do you know who play fantasy baseball, spending hours upon hours poring over box scores and tracking ESPN apps to follow “their” players, hoping to come out a winner at the end of the season?
That’s us. But instead of wagering on the feats of other players, we are betting on ourselves. Or at least hoping our hearts hold out.
There is no sport prone to greater hyperbole than baseball, but it truly is a game of great fellowship, if for no other reason than you’ve got a bunch of guys standing around for hours upon hours with plenty of time to boast, jawbone and prevaricate – with the occasional burst of action to make you feel alive.
“Action” being a relative term.
My partner has lent her full support to my signing up this year. God knows she’s heard me prattle on about my youthful triumphs so many times that she’s happy to have me out of the house finally doing it again instead of talking about it all the time.
The only thing she takes issue with is the name of the league. Diamond Dreams. She says we sound like a bunch of girls playing Barbie. I brushed that aside until I Googled the league to do further research for this story and along with “Diamond Dreams Baseball,” I got hits for Diamond Dreams Dance Wear, the Diamond Dreams Gala and – not kidding – the Diamond Dreams Tupperware Team.
So I guess if this baseball thing doesn’t work out, there’s always that to fall back on. You just burp the lid, like so, to lock in the freshness!
Maybe she has a point.
But it’s too much fun to quit now. As long as there’s someone slower than me, older than me, more faded and jaded than me, I’m gonna keep playing in that field of dreams in my own head. Hitting, running, catching, sliding, cussing, spitting and falling down a lot more than I used to. Bruised egos and shins be damned. And there have been plenty of both already this season.
It sounds cliché and I’m sure I’ve heard this line in a movie somewhere, but once the game is inside of you, it’s hard to stop. That’s the curse – and the blessing – of the game. That sweet bird of youth – with a broken wing now – but with the smell of fresh cut grass and the sun on your (heavily SPF-50’d) face.
Feeling young and wild and free.
That is, until someone in the dugout begins a story by saying, “I was talking to my great-granddaughter this morning and…”
Diamond Dreams, indeed.