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America's pasttime is back

Sunday, March 4, 2012

It's already here. That special time of the year when players take to the diamond in America's pasttime.

It's already started for middle school teams in the area.

Just the other night I sat in the crisp, cool night air, camera and bag of barbecue sunflower seeds in tow, and settled in for a the Cascade Middle season opener.

Even at just a middle school game, I found myself wanting a hotdog and wanting to be sitting in my favorite MLB team's home stadium-- Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds.

There's just something about this time of year that's uniquely American. Most other countries find it boring, but we as Americans embrace it and the 162-game schedule.

It's, as they say, "As American as hotdogs and apple pie," which I guess is why the franks are such a ballpark favorite.

The game of baseball goes way beyond being just a game.

In today's time of economic turmoil, fans can go to a ballgame for as little as $12 (cheaper if you find a minor league team). Being able to escape such harsh times, even just for a few hours, helps us as Americans put our troubles aside.

I know for me personally, it goes even beyond that.

Last summer, my family and I took a road trip to Cincinnati to watch our beloved Reds in a home series against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Reds lost both games, but that wasn't the point.

I was away from the trials and tribulations of work, enjoying the thrills of being in Cincinnati. But one part of this particular trip stands out was a trip through the Reds Hall of Fame, and that's when it dawned on me.

Baseball, at its very core, brings us all back to being a kid. In the hall, they had exhibits of my favorite player (and 2012 Hall of Fame inductee, Barry Larkin), baseball cards, and other memorabilia, each of which sparked a memory I had of watching the Reds when I was little.

For me being just 23 years old at the time, it wasn't hard to reach back and think of the few trips my dad and I made to Cincinnati to the old ballpark-- Riverfront Stadium.

But during our trip through the hall of fame exhibits, I saw my dad reaching back to being a kid during (what I consider) to be the golden era of baseball.

His favorite era was the 1970's with the Big Red Machine, featuring his favorite player, catcher Johnny Bench.

We walked around and he would point out a certain baseball card he had, or a magazine he remembered reading, or where he was when this particular play happened.

That's when it hit me. Baseball isn't just about hits, runs, and errors. It's about living free. It's about going back to where you were when you first picked up a baseball. It's about where you were when your favorite player made the game-winning hit.

It's about those special trips to your favorite ballpark with your dad.

It just doesn't get much more American than that.

Chris Siers is the sports editor for the Times-Gazette. Email him at sports@t-g.com.

Chris Siers
The Extra Point
Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette.