By: William Earl Robinson
What does baseball mean to me? That’s a pretty easy question. It means family and happiness and reconnecting with years gone by. However, it took some time away from the sport to realize all those things. It’s only recently that I have gotten back into baseball. Technically over the past three seasons. I had lost touch with the game during my time in medical school after my father passed away. It had only been in the past three years that I had the fortune of picking it back up.
My father passed away approximately ten years ago last December. To me he was my greatest hero, an almost larger than life personality who exemplified both physical and mental strength and when he passed away a significant part of who I was passed away with him. I took great pride in being his son, both because of how awesome he was and the fact that he gave me his name. We spent hours talking on the phone about sports including mostly baseball.
Our favorite team was the Cincinnati Reds and he could easily talk to me about them for hours on end. Most of that time spent celebrating the awesomeness of Pete Rose and the Big Red Machine. So when he died I really couldn’t pick back up with baseball until several years later when my brothers and I sat down to separate his massive baseball card collection.
My father easily had a million baseball cards. He had collected them from the time he was 16 forward. He was one of 8 children who was responsible for helping his single mother provide food for his family, and when he was 16 he finally was able to earn an adult man’s wages for working in the fields.
At that time he finally had some extra money and so he was able to go out with that extra money and he would purchase ball cards with it. Specifically he would buy 1955 Bowman cards. So as my brothers and I would pull out those 1955 Bowman cards, they meant the absolute world to me and so even though some of them wouldn’t be as valuable as some of the other cards I would choose them for my collection because I knew how much they meant to my father.
Pouring over those cards with my brothers all the wonderful memories of my childhood came back to me. The afternoons outside pitching and batting with my best friend, pretending that I was Jose Rijo and throwing split finger fastballs, sitting in our basement organizing all those 1987 Topps cards into sets, hunting through every Woolworths looking for rack packs of 1989 Donruss hunting for Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards, and traveling from flea market to flea market looking for good deals on cards with my dad and mom before they stopped spending as much time together.
All those wonderful memories came back to me and filled me with a much simpler time. A time before my father died, a time before the struggles of medical school and student loan debt, a time before having to stress about finances, a time before girlfriends and fiancés, a time when all of my grandparents and all of my parents were alive. It brought me back to much simpler times and I couldn’t help but smile and laugh and just enjoy my brothers.
So the joy of baseball came back to me and hasn’t left me since. I have honestly just been so excited every spring with the reporting of pitchers and catchers and even though my Reds have been a letdown over the past three years I honestly couldn’t care less. I’m just happy with the simple pleasures of watching people play a game that I love.
So what does baseball mean to me? It means a carefree life away from the stress and struggle of our everyday existence. It means time away from work, time away from drama and time with my family to just enjoy and love being around them. It means an easy way to interact with people that I love and just be free to communicate with them and enjoy each other. To me baseball is the true meaning of happiness because whenever I’m around it I feel just like I felt as a child and it’s almost like my dad is going to call any minute.