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Games Marked by Innings; Memories Span a Lifetime

Nothing brings it all back like the crack of the bat on Opening Day.

Rebirth is a word many in the Midwest associate with the beginning of a new major league baseball season. Why? Take a look out the window or a walk around the block.

The grass is turning green. The sun is beginning to warm our hearts, if not our souls. And the Cubs and White Sox are in the thick of pennant races. Hey, it’s Opening Day. It’s a time for dreamers.

It’s also time to give a shout out to “our” favorite sons. As the call to “Play Ball” is trumpeted across America, be advised four players from right here in the Southland are on the active rosters of major league teams: Tim Byrdak (Oak Forest; Mets pitcher), Jason Frasor (Oak Forest; Blue Jays pitcher), Tom Gorzelanny (Evergreen Park, Marist; Nationals pitcher) and Garrett Jones (Andrew, Pirates outfielder).

Perhaps you watched them grow up and chase after their dreams on sandlots in your neighborhood. If so, perhaps you are moved today to reflection. The word is one I like to pull from my old equipment bag, as I wax nostalgic over the start of another major league season.

No, not because Vienna Beef hot dogs are on the menu at Wrigley Field. Pardon me while I digress. Who doesn’t like to reflect on their favorite ballpark food?

To me, the beginning of a new baseball season is a chance to reflect on old times, good times. I treasure the memories of coaching my own two sons during a time when they played a game that very few grownups ever get to play again. We spent many hours of many days lost in the escape outlet that was the ball diamond.

Grainy photographs in our family scrapbooks tell the stories, but not as well as my boys themselves. To this day, they talk about some of our greatest victories, like teaching Johnny O'Henry (not his real name) to catch a flyball with two hands. But they also talk about big moments, like the time their aunt was sitting in the bleachers, eyebrows raised in astonishment over how much I jumped up and down and put on a show as “my” underdog bunch pulled a huge upset on the Mustang field.

Really, I didn’t do anything but cheer for my boys. And I think today we should all consider that our assignment for the new season. Let’s cheer for “our” boys in the Southland—Byrdak, Frasor, Gorzelanny and Jones. Let’s cheer for our rebirth in the Midwest. It’s Opening Day.

And that can mean only one other thing—you’ll be able to wear shorts and a T-shirt again soon. I’m thinking June 1.

Paul Dailing April 01, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Every year, my dad's work would buy a bunch of tickets for Opening Day at Wrigley. So every year, while my mom and sister shook their heads at us as if we were idiots, we would pack off to shiver, eat hot dogs and watch the Cubs. Eventually, we found father-son traditions that didn't involve possible hypothermia, but I'll always look back fondly on those years. I'll just look back fondly on them from inside a heated house.
Lorraine Swanson April 01, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Never minded going to Wrigley on opening day when it snowed, probably because I always dressed for the weather. I recall in 1987 when a friend came in from the burbs to pick me up for opening day. It was freezing by the lake and she wasn't wearing socks. I loaned her a pair of mine, mainly because I didn't feel like listening to her whine all afternoon, and a couple of sweatshirts.
Caroline Evans April 02, 2011 at 02:41 AM
One of my favorite memories of all time was when my brother taught me how to keep score at our first game at Wrigley Field. We were practically adults at the time, but it was a great moment, mostly because we had finally realized we could be adults around each other and leave our differences at the stadium gates.
Dick Schmidt April 02, 2011 at 04:37 AM
My fondest memory was when the White Sox won the World Series!!! Amazing!!
OLY April 02, 2011 at 04:45 AM
Sitting in the dugout with Nellie Fox, Louie Aparicio, Jim Landis ect. 1958 Yep, I'm old................

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