I’m waiting to see it. We’ve all been waiting to see it.
I’ve been looking most of the last month, really. Every time I get in the car, I look for it.
Oh, I can hear it sometimes, on the radio, when the weather is right and the station comes in and I remember that it’s on, and I’ve been able to see it on TV a few times while channel surfing, from Florida. I’ve even been able to read about it in the papers and online, Big Papi popping off, phenoms being sent down, bad elbows being sent to Dr. Andrews. But I haven’t found it yet myself, not in person.
It usually doesn’t hide this long. I’ve always seen it by now, a least a little bit. A knit hat exchanged for a ball cap, a Carhartt coat for a windbreaker, a kid throwing a whiffle ball instead of a snowball, a boy walking down the street with a bat on his shoulder.
Not this year. It’s April 1 as I write this, April Fool’s Day, but believe me, this is no joke. The ground outside is still frozen, four, maybe five feet down, frost so deep my neighbor’s well froze up. There’s still snow on the ground and the sap in the maples has just started running. I’ve yet to see a single robin and the puppy we got last fall, which is now almost fully grown, looks at the stray chickadee like he’s never seen a bird before because, well, he sort of hasn’t. Southern New England got the snow, northern New England the cold. One day this winter, my truck froze fast to the ground. I think the snowplow is permanently rusted on. I ran out of wood for the stove last night and when I saw a half-dozen wood bats leaned up in the corner of my basement, I swear my first thought was “kindling.”
I drove by the school the other day up here, past the ballfield where I used to coach Little League, but no one was on it. Mud season hasn’t even started yet, much less baseball season. People are still skiing every weekend and skating, and it’s only been the last week that they finally stopped driving across the lake to ice fish. Hockey leads off the nightly news. Hot dogs? Hamburgers? Popcorn? Grilling? Are you kidding? We’re still making pea soup, chili and stew, drinking more whiskey than beer, and buying chain saw oil instead of sun block.
I even went south, six weeks ago, to Florida to see my daughter in school and couldn’t even find it there. Spring training hadn’t really started and even though it was 70 degrees warmer than here, it was still jacket weather. I can’t remember a year like this before, or a spring, and I’m old enough now that when I say that, it means something.
Last year seems so far off I can’t remember it anymore. Who did Jon Lester sign with, anyway? Wasn’t he supposed to come back? Does Boston have a third baseman yet? Did the manager get fired? Is Dustin Pedroia still hurt? Why is Derek Jeter not playing shortstop for the Yankees? Where did the Sox finish, anyway, first place, or last? Damned if I know.
I haven’t seen a Street and Smith’s at the drugstore. No pennants for sale at the Dollar General. No six-year-old boys in “Little Slugger” jackets. No packs of baseball cards. No pink hats.
So today I bundle up, down vest under leather jacket, wool gloves and knit alpaca hat, and take the dogs for a walk across the frozen tundra. It’s all new to the little one, and he ruffles in the weeds beneath the trees, sniffing out smells and getting burrs stuck to his snout. Then he suddenly takes off, something hanging from his mouth, something he knows he shouldn’t have which is why he wants it, and we’re off. We tear through the back yard, him playing a game and me hollering and getting madder, figuring he’s found a dead mouse or part of rabbit or something else that didn’t survive the winter, up and around the garden and the house, through the pines and sumac, until he finally drops it and runs away to find something else, tongue hanging out pink and happy.
I go to see what it is. It’s mostly round, sort of gray, damp and heavy, kind of stringy. Then I see them, dim red stitches, and a flap of loose leather. Something lost some summer a long time ago, and now, at last, found in spring.
I pick it up, and there it is again. Baseball.
Glenn Stout is Longform Editor of SB Nation and author of Fenway 1912. He lives in Vermont and is still freezing his ass off. @GlennStout