Play Ball, Not Politics

It was not easy to find, but it found me. This week, while taking some time off work, I sought out a little respite from the political strife that has consumed our country. Just a day after we watched Air Force One leave the air space over the Ohio Valley, I found myself heading north to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates slug it out with the St. Louis Cardinals.

What I ended up enjoying on a bright sunny afternoon was more than a baseball game, and it had nothing to do with the final score of the game, 6-3, St. Louis on top. Let me explain.

Entering the ball park, one of the most beautiful in the country, I observed hundreds upon hundreds of people sporting their teams’ colors. There were quite a few Cardinals fans among the loyal Pirates faithful. In fact, I sat next to some Ohio residents — they dressed in their team’s red and yellow colors and I in my Pirates black and gold T-shirt. Yes it’s a small world, as I learned my seat mates were from the St. Clairsville area.

When a talented young lady raised the microphone to begin singing the “Star Spangled Banner,” every hat came off every head. Hands were placed over hearts and the words of freedom we so take for granted were sung. No one was kneeling. No one was jeering our national anthem. There were no politically charged signs being held up. There was no booing.

It was an amazing display of one country under God, not the disjointed political arena we are exposed to on a daily basis. It was as though all those baseball fans understood the need to leave all the dysfunction at the curb and simply enjoy the camaraderie of rooting for their teams.

I grew up in a neighborhood overrun with kids who left indelible marks in backyards and lawns as we played games from sun up to sun down each summer. When I ride past some of those yards today, I envision those lines in the grass that resulted from our running the bases. The bases were nothing more than improvised pieces of cardboard swiped from the trash behind the local Kroger store. We took extra care to build a proper pitching mound, however. That may have entailed borrowing some sand from little kids’ sandboxes and depositing it on “the mound.” By summer’s end, the fields were well worn with the footsteps of equally worn out sneakers.

Usually the oldest among us was the pitcher, most likely someone’s big brother. He would be told to take it easy on the youngest among us when pitching his famous fast ball.

Once in a while, a parent would stop by and shake his or her head at the formerly pristine green space that once held perfect blades of grass. Most parents were pretty understanding about the yards. It was a small price to pay to know your kids were outside in the sunshine, getting some exercise and staying out of trouble.

Summer’s not over. Neither is one nation under God, at least in the ballpark. Play ball!

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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