I love it when April rolls around.
I’ve had many years to pay attention and I’ve noticed several things about April. First, it always comes at about the same time every year. Second, it usually signals the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Third, Iowans usually see a flurry of activity in farm fields across our great state. Fourth, and most important of all, it always means that baseballs will once again fill the air, thrown with great velocity by men standing in the middle of a “diamond” and hit with a small round cylindrical piece of wood with, quite often, even greater velocity.
Baseball’s opening day has arrived.
To me, and to many Americans not all that different than I, April is a magical time of year. It’s a time when every single Major League team, all 30 of them (oh, I remember vividly the time there were only 16, eight in the American League and eight in the National League and only two of them were west of the Mississippi River in St. Louis) have an equal chance at playing in the World Series when October finally arrives.
April sends a tingle down the spines of baseball fans young and old. The long, cold winter is gone and will soon be replaced by sunshine and temperatures in the 80s and 90s in the Upper Midwest.
There was nothing more special when, as a young lad, I went to the closet, pulled out my Rawlings baseball glove, untied the twine that had kept a baseball snugly in the pocket over the winter, donned the glove and began tossing the ball into the glove’s pocket over and over and over. That ritual usually played out when snow was still on the ground, but was disappearing quickly. Thousands of times I’d toss the ball into the glove’s pocket until, finally, it was warm enough to go outside to play catch with my boyhood friends, just as eager as I to begin summer’s ritual all over again.
It was easy to imagine as kids that, one day, we’d grab our gloves, don our Major League uniforms and begin our own quest for a World Championship.
I remember as a freshman in a class called “community life problems,” the teacher asked us all, probably 20 of us, to list our life goals. “What do you want to do when you’re an adult?” was the question. There were lines for three answers, No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. I still remember my 13-year-old answers. On the first line, I wrote, “Major League baseball player.” On line No. 2, I wrote, “Baseball coach.” And, on line No. 3, I wrote: “Baseball grounds keeper.”
No doubt I had things planned; I knew what was in store in my future. Yup, I knew down which path my life was headed.
Of course, things change. The dreams I had as a 13-year-old fell to thoughts of a more realistic future. It’s funny how things work out sometimes. I had no thoughts of writing, even though I rather enjoyed English class. That’s what happened, though. I wound up writing things I hoped others would enjoy reading.
I was fortunate. My first “real” job was as a sportswriter and I found myself writing about high school baseball. Well, that was “close” to the goals I had when I was younger. I became even more fortunate later when, after completing my military service, I wound up on a sports desk in north Central Wisconsin. One of my assignments in April of 1970 was to write a story on the first game ever played by the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers, of course, had been the Seattle Pilots in 1969. Folks in Milwaukee and all of Wisconsin were quite happy to finally have a team to replace the Milwaukee Braves, who’d departed Beer Town for Atlanta a few years earlier.
Through the years, I moved around a bit. In Wisconsin, I’d been able to cover the Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers on occasion, and had even seen some Big 10 football games. Later, I moved back to Iowa and wrote about automobile racing before getting out of sports writing to cover things like city council meetings and police beats.
One thing never changed, though. That was my love of April and what it was sure to bring.
But, this April is quite different than those that have come and gone through my many years. No longer am I wondering, “Is this the year?” No, that question was answered last year when the Chicago Cubs ended more than a century of frustration by winning the World Series.
I’m a more satisfied individual this year. I don’t have to wait. I don’t have to wonder.
But, it’s still April. And, it’s still spring. And, another baseball season has begun.
Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News-Republican and Dallas County News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.