As I pull into the parking lot, I can’t help but think that April for baseball in Kansas is a bad idea. The mornings are cool and the air is heavy. But as I cross the thresh hold of the baseball diamond I don’t care about the weather as long as it’s not raining. Between the grass, the superstition, the crowd and the game itself, I realize it has been a long winter. Over the past four months I have yearned for this day to take place, and now that it is here I have to make it count.
Every time I arrive I always go straight to the dugout. At the beginning of the year it smells damp and earthy, almost like there was standing water in it the entire winter. Neglected benches have a thin layer of mold and heavy dirt on them. The concrete floor as clean as it will be for the entire summer, is still dirty due to the lack of attention it has received over the past 4 months. Soon the once clean floor will have a thin layer of Copenhagen, spit and Gatorade to keep its shine. The smell of pine tar, and sweat soon replaces the smell of mold. The benches receive new scars from the cleats of every player that wants to rest his legs instead of caressing the dugout fence. I now slowly make my way to the field remembering the routine I used so many months ago.
As I approach the chalk line, the line used to determine success or failure by an inch, I remember all the games I used to watch. No player or manager would ever step on that simple object. Calcium carbonate or powered limestone, referred to as the foul line, is treated like a grave site never to be stepped on during normal passage. I gingerly hop over it and begin my warm up. I always begin by stretching my legs. This is mainly due to Kansas having very heavy dew in April and by the time the game begins my rear will be dry. So I sit, I sit on the newly manicured grass that was forgotten since the beginning of October. While it was left for dead, the freezing winter in Kansas, it now looks similar to the fields on TV. The color of every blade differs depending on which way the grounds keepers swept it. One way it reminds me of The Grinch, the light green that reflects the sun and almost shimmers. The other way is more of a pine needle, dark and non-reflective. The smell of fresh cut grass overwhelming my nostrils to the point I almost can breathe, but I stretch. I enjoy it, another box that has to get checked before baseball can start.
Now that I'm nice and damp I stand and take my place in line to stretch my arm. I always choose the foul territory with a fence behind me. Not because I didn’t trust the arm of those I threw with but because of the dirt. When my cleats pierce the soil I can instantly tell if the infield will be nice. The foul territory, like the warning track (the three to five feet of dirt before the outfield wall) is rarely used but if the grounds crew who care about those areas ensure the infield is immaculate. My feet become planted and I feel no clumps of dirt (or clay thankfully) and my...