Monday, April 27, 2020

Baseball is Ready to Unite Us All

We’re now quickly approaching May 1, a time in which Major League Baseball originally was slated to resume for the 2020 season. COVID-19 has continued to disrupt those plans, and the lack of sports has become frustratingly difficult. However, when we do get resumption (and that remains inevitable), I can’t help but reflect on two big returns.

As things stand, we still have no idea when baseball will be back. The Coronavirus pandemic has dealt body blows to our country and around the world. Continuing efforts to react and respond to the situation has left resumption of what was once normal everyday life a complete secondary goal. That being said it seems that May will be a pivotal month for baseball.

Today Jeff Passan wrote about the return of Major League Baseball, some of the ideas in place, and most importantly that the reality is trending from an if to a when. May could be the month that lays groundwork for future answers. We’re still likely a ways from seeing plan put into action, but having actual blueprints drawn out is a very integral part of the process.

We have seen baseball halted before, not like this, but invoking similar feelings. There have been wars, tragedies, and events that have reach far beyond the diamond. When trying to anticipate what it may be like when we hear “Play ball!” again, I’m quickly drawn back to a pair of East Coast experiences.

If you think about the hurt that 9/11 brought to the country, there are few greater pains than a mass killing in the name of hatred. I was just 11 at the time, but I know when we further distanced from the actual event that September 21 night in Queens was a big one. Mike Piazza hit a home run to dead center that shook the entire nation. I’m not a New York fan and supporting either of the Major League franchises there will never happen. I do know however; the country needed that homer.

Years later Boston was at the center of an attack. With bombs going off during one of the most prolific events in the world, not only did the Marathon come to a halt, but so too did a city. I remember tracking the news about a manhunt that had people shuttered in their homes and led to the eventual capture of a coward hiding in a boat. The surreal emotions brought on by the initial impact and days that followed were truly mind boggling.

When we had resumption of sport in the Massachusetts epicenter there he was, former Twins castoff David Ortiz. By this time Big Papi had become Boston. He was a fan favorite and will go down as one of the best hitters to ever play the game. After honoring all the brave men and women that vowed to keep the city safe, Ortiz did as he often does and gave us the “This is our f****** city” level of emotion.

I don’t think suggesting a worldwide pandemic is along the same lines of hatred these other two instances sought out to prove, but there’s a unifying factor when we experience something together. The nation, and world, are going through this same event in a very similar way. Sports provide a distraction that allow us to turn from everyday life, and we can come together through fandom that unites people from so many different backgrounds.

Give me flags flying, flyovers causing chills, and maybe the pop of the mitt bringing a tear to an eye. We likely won’t be in the ballparks to witness it, but baseball will be back, and we’ll all be better for it.