The noon sky in Arizona during a warm March day nearly always has a ‘high sky’, with a milky white texture on the edges melding into a crystal clear solid blue apex. There is a whiff of breeze that cools the skin which has been warmed by the first hot sun of the season as you walk up to the gates at Maryvale. The crowds have gathered. The smells of the ballpark are clearly evident. Smiles are on all of the faces of the fans entering the turnstiles. Tickets checked. “Get your program here.”, tells you that you are, “Can’t tell the players without a program”, solidly inside the park where dreams of a pennant winning season lie ahead. Welcome to opening day for the Milwaukee Brewers as they host the San Francisco Giants.
The distinguished smell of Secret Stadium Sauce which covers the grilled bratwurst is in the air. Mixed with the unmistakable smell of yeast and hops which to every person who has ever lived in Milwaukee and passed by the Red Star yeast plant notes that Miller Beer is flowing freely. The popcorn is popping fresh and funnel cake being powered with sugar. Kids are carrying their soda and peanuts to their seats, with arms full of memorabilia of hats, tee shirts and stuff. Only at a ballpark can you really define stuff the way stuff is meant to be described. There are baseballs, caps, shirts, shorts, socks, jackets, blankets, programs, pennants, buttons, ticket stubs…all of which you try to save for decades to come. These are the keys to the kingdom of joyful memory.
Who is that walking by? Is that Ryan? “Ryan. Will you sign my glove?”. Oh, it wasn’t Ryan. It was #96? Who’s #96? Hey there’s The Freak! And Weeks, Hart and Lucroy, the stars of the game are walking an arms length away from where one sits. As Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham stated in the movie, “This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind nevers blows so cold again.” We are now officially at a major league baseball game. Spring really must be here. And the players are all walking into the stadium from the right field gate, smiling and laughing, slapping each other with their gloves with one hand while carrying their bats over their shoulder with the other in this time of real fun, spring training.
The first real roar of the crowd bursts out when the announcer comes on and welcomes everyone to Maryvale, the home of the Milwaukee Brewers, the National League Central Division Champions. Then the announcer states that it is 82 degrees at game time while it is 24 degrees and snowy in Milwaukee. “Ooo’s” and “ahhh’s” followed by laughter of those lucky enough to be in attendance fill the air as fans rush to the railings in hopes of securing that once in a lifetime signature on the baseball they brought to the game in hopes of the impossible.
The dreams of a long winter come to fruition as all of the elements that are needed to allow the guest kid on the microphone to yell, “Play Ball”.
The perfectly manicured infield and outfield of green matching the perfect blue sky make this more than a field of dreams as it becomes a field of hope for the season to come through the unknowing spring to the dog days of summer and the unbridled excitement of fall. The game our Dad and our Dad’s Dad enjoyed so much is now about to be played out in the eyes of our kids and our grand children and our own, as the game spans all generations, all genders, all regions, all weathers and three seasons of the year.
“Now batting for the San Francisco Giants…..”
The game of hope is about to begin again. The excitement is growing with wonderful anticipation. It’s going to be a great 2012.