Thanksgiving is many things for many people. For me, it was in October, because I’m Canadian, so right today is just a typical Thursday in my world. But I know so many Americans, especially because of my connection to the baseball world, that it’s impossible to ignore the meaning of the day. Thanksgiving is more than just eating good food and avoiding contentious political debates with family. It’s more than just a turkey pardon or a chance to watch football with Uncle Stan. At its heart, Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to reflect on what’s important to us, and what brings us joy.
So on this Thanksgiving day, give thanks for baseball.
Baseball is not just a game. Well, maybe it is for some and that’s fine. Your world is cold and bitter and a bit sadder for the loss, but I’m not going to judge you. Baseball goes beyond a ball and a bat and a glove.
Baseball is steamy summer months, a sunburn blossoming over your nose and cheeks while you eat hot dogs in damp buns and feel your hundred dollar jersey stick to your back. It’s rain delays spent in the shelter of the upper decks, huddled together with friends while you watch an away game on the big screen and hope things will pick up again once the rain tapers off. It’s a game playing on the radio while you drive out of town on a weekend, or a familiar announcer’s voice sharing stats as you fight off sleep during a West Coast road trip that goes into extra innings. Baseball is the tears you cry when you watch a perfectly hit home run video from thirty years ago, and it’s the cheers when you see a team win its first World Series in 108 years. Baseball is the look of awe in a child’s face when they get to meet their hero at a game, and it’s the season tickets that have stayed in a family for a hundred years.
It is hope, and sadness, and joy, and defeat.
There is a wonderful magic woven into each red stitch that holds a ball together, and in the oil of the glove that receives it. There’s beauty in the pine tar stains on a jersey shoulder, and the red dust and grass stains that coats a player after a steal or perfect diving catch. It’s an earthy kind of magic that can’t be explained until you’ve felt it. But those who know how baseball feels deep inside the soul will never stop loving it. It becomes a part of who we are as people.
So this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for 162 games a season. I’m grateful for Spring Training in February, and the postseason in October. I am grateful for cramped plastic seats, and the President’s race, and bad hot dogs, and beer that costs too much. I give thanks that I have seen Miguel Cabrera hit home runs, and Max Scherzer throw strikes, and Bryce Harper take off his helmet and toss his hair. I am blessed to the my very heart to be able to share this love with others who have felt the magic. I get to spend every day of my life talking to other baseball lovers, and because of that I have a family of thousands. I can talk to anyone wearing a Tigers hat anywhere in North America and know we share a bond, even if we have nothing else in common.
I give thanks for baseball, because baseball has made me something better than what I was without it. It has given me a passion, and an obsession, and something that I can love unconditionally, in good times and bad.
And that’s something worth being thankful for.