Spring means baseball in America, just the right time for me to go do some meditation on the diamond and the mound.
One of my patients told me about Kelleher Field so I map quested it and discovered it was right up the block at the end of Stratford Avenue.
So off I strolled last Saturday morning to learn more about baseball in Williston Park. I continue to believe that sports are one of the best anti-depressants we have since it gets us away from our televisions and our work life.
I had no idea how lovely Stratford Avenue was. All the cherry trees, dogwoods and wisteria were in full bloom like walking through a perfume factory.
I certainly didn’t realize how large the homes were on Stratford or how well tended they all were with those towering sycamores standing guard in front. There is a Tudor home on the corner of Lehigh and Stratford that ought to be in Architectural Digest.
Within minutes I was at the ballpark with a game already in progress. I was to learn that the Reardon Riots were playing against Hawthorne and that the Riots were in front 8-0.
And they were still in the first inning. But despite the troublesome score the Hawthorn team kept fielding those balls and trying as hard as they might to reach first base with the throw.
I had forgotten how sweet and poignant sports can be at the age of 10. When I was a kid I was a good pitcher in Little League.
But when I checked out the speed and the wildness of the pitchers in Babe Ruth League (age 13) I said to myself ’Hey it’s about time to take up golf in earnest, far less chance for concussions and brain damage.”
So on this particular Saturday as I sat and watched the umpires and coaches and parents and kids all wrapped up in a big ball of fun I was happy that I chose sport psychology as my specialty.
What could be nicer than sitting out in the sun, looking out over the well-manicured diamond, sipping your ice tea as you chat with your neighbor and watch your kids slug it out?
The classic duel between pitcher and catcher is at the core of the game. I was once asked by Bob Lipsyte of the New York Times to discuss the underlying meaning of this duel.
I will not bore you with the psychoanalytic details of my interview but I will say this. Any sport that generates great poetry is a great and meaningful sport.
To date there are only two that do so, tennis and baseball. Back in 1888 Ernest Thayer a Harvard grad wrote the now famous ‘Casey at the bat.’ Every baseball fan on earth knows the lines:
“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day.
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.”
It goes on to its wonderful finale with the lines
“And somewhere men are laughing and somewhere children shout.
But there is no joy in Mudville-mighty Casey has struck out.”
Pure poetry and pure fun from a pure sport. We have our own Mudville tales right here at Kelleher Field and we are pretty lucky that we do.