January. It sucks. Let's face it, we all miss the game. In its absence, the sound of baseball's silence is deafening. We've resorted ourselves to Internet streams of games played on the other side of the Pacific, or south of the Equator. Some fans turn to reruns of games past ... that is, if their team's season wasn't an absolute and bitter disappointment. It's a cheap appeasement, but it'll do. For now.
A little, white circular ball bound together with red string and knocked around by a wooden stick fills people with hope, keeps them on edge for the better part eight or nine months. But the cool air that both brings about and offers an end to another season hasn't yet surfaced. In April, postseason speculation abounds when the term "sample size" isn't large enough to be called as such, yet even that is an illusion at present. It's the best kind of addiction and right about now, every baseball fan is in withdrawal.
Baseball players are still grinding away, working in the offseason to condition themselves for the upcoming season after a short time off. There is no true "offseason" for them. Free agents test the open market, playing another game. Those lucky to have been signed early can rest easy. The remainder still play with their now dwindling options. The game has changed. Despite solid seasons, some players still wait in the wings while the chess match between team(s) and agent drags on.
For the baseball writers, those whom earn their living by mashing words on a keyboard to cover America's pastime, most are appreciative of the time away. No deadlines. No madness. Complacency sets in ... or at least, the attempt is made. Checking Twitter 24/7 is no longer a requirement. Yet, even still, the game is missed. Sleep often eludes those during the season, but we can sleep when we're dead I suppose. The game awaits. A game that will never grow dull.
Because, here's the thing about baseball that entraps us, all of us. A game of patience, finesse, and skill, there is always something new to see. Moments that cause even the most devoted attendees' mouths to drop in surprise and utter words of amazement. You are always learning. It never stops. Regardless of fan or writer, somewhere deep down we're all fans of the game -- even if some are averse to admit it.
Baseball is both exhilarating, and at the same time, humbling beyond compare, in the sports world. All because of that small-ish white ball with red string for stitching, and a wooden bat whose sole purpose is to wallop that baseball into oblivion. But here, in January, we long for relief from the cold grip of winter. Beautiful as she may be in some places, her vision is but a cold, cruel mistress.
No, what is truly missing are those proofs present during the warmer times: The feel of the soft, green grass under foot or to the touch. Cool and damp in the early spring, yet warm under the summer sun. How an old glove feels, like seeing an old friend after being away for far too long. The bat: its crack when wood meets ball. That echo, which shatters the winter silence, causes even the grumpiest of characters to grin from ear-to-ear like a silly schoolboy (or girl) who has just struck gold.
When spring returns, in a way that's the feeling for fans. The recurrence of baseball is yearned for, and for baseball fans, that time is now. But I would be remiss were I not to admit that same giddy feeling, those heartwarming sights, sounds, and smells, are not missed by the writers, too. We'd be fools if we failed to admit we're all really just grown up kids in love with a child's game. For some, it's a dream come true.
And so, we wait. For the dawn. The crack of the bat against the ball. Home runs, no-hitters, bloops, bunts, dazzling defensive plays, egregious umpire calls, spring training. Opening Day. Septober. The postseason. The World Series. January has only just begun, and there is still so much baseball to pine for. But, upon its return, do not hurry it along too quickly, lest you find yourself at the end wondering what became of your long-awaited season. For now, dream. And try not to completely lose it in the meantime.