By Max Toth
When asked how he spent baseball‘s long, cold offseason, Hall of Famer Honus Wagner said “I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” While Wagner would be taking the field as part of the MLB’s pandemic restart if he played today, young ball players, including myself, have been forced to wait.....and wait.....and wait through the longest off-season yet. So, to combat my baseball withdrawal, I’ve decided to share some of the many things I miss about playing the game.
What makes baseball unique from other sports, especially kids sports, is the special connection between teammates. The game is much slower paced than other sports such as hockey, so there’s a lot of time to mingle with your teammates. One of my favourite team memories is from the season where all the kids collected the comics that come with a piece of “Double Bubble” and stuffed them in a jar that I still have in my room. I also remember my country-loving “Rebels” teammates, who led us in a pre-game “Yee-Haw!” cheer and played John Denver’s “Country Roads” on their cell phones as our official walk-up music when we went up to bat.
One of the best parts of our home ballpark in my Toronto neighbourhood is that there are usually about five or six other games going on during the evening. The buzz of activity makes for a fantastic atmosphere and I have great memories of grabbing a post-game hot dog at the snack bar and watching the “big guys” play.
But at the end of the day, what I miss the most is actually playing the game. My earliest diamond memory is being 5-years old and playing T-ball; although, to be honest, that was more like a WWE wrestling match than a baseball game. When one of the pint-sized players finally made contact at the plate, an every-kid-for-themselves mad dash would ensue for the ball and the wrestling match would commence. Hey! Forget about hitting and fielding; when you’re five, diving into a dog pile is what baseball is really all about.
Since I’ve started playing “real” baseball, I‘ve actually been pretty successful. Unfortunately, however, that success hasn’t translated into any championship trophies. At one point, the teams I played on qualified for the title game in three straight seasons. But three straight times we came up just a little bit short. That led my dad to dub our squads as the Buffalo Bills of baseball. But the Bills actually lost FOUR straight Super Bowls and, by the way, my dad coached two of our ball teams that lost in the finals. So, if we‘re the Buffalo Bills, that makes dad Marv Levy.
Unfortunately, my quest to finally win a championship (or lose another one, to truly match “The Four Falls of Buffalo”) has been stopped cold by COVID-19. But like the fans of every losing baseball team always say, “Wait ‘till next year.“
Until then, I can always take a peek at my comic jar, slap on a little John Denver and think about all the great memories I’m lucky to own from playing a great game.