Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our Game

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game. 
--Jacques Barzun (1907-2012) French-born, American Historian

Over the last few years I've been hanging out a lot at the baseball field -- partly because many of my students are on the team, partly for the sake of my love of sports photography, but there's a sentimental reason drawing me to the ball field -- my rekindled love for the game. They say the game is too slow, too methodical, too cerebral. The game moves at its own pace. There's a subtlety to it. It requires patience. And yet the game can turn with the crack of the bat. There aren't coin tosses, clocks counting down or cheerleaders. Here the defense controls the ball and on offense each batter stands alone. It's a game of individual achievement, and yet even the best player must depend on the other eight men who take the field. Music, clothes, hair styles, technology, labor strikes, recessions, even world wars come and go. Baseball remains. As Walt Whitman said, "It's our game -- the American game."

Recently I took some shots of one of our seniors, Cory Hilton (Johnson City, TN) -- it was the day before graduation. Toward the end of our shoot, we sat in the dugout and I asked him about baseball: what it meant to him, what his fondest memories were. He said he couldn't remember a time in his life when he didn't play baseball. He had played his last game that week. The conference tournament didn't go our way and as he walked off the field for the last time, he looked up, and there was his dad in the stands right above the dugout, standing and clapping. He said he lost it right then. And as he was telling me about it, I nearly did too. Such a poignant moment speaks volumes of their relationship. Am I wrong to think that that moment and that image of his father clapping will be the central image he returns to again and again in his life when the chips are down?  That he'll play that scene over in his mind when he has kids of his own who play ball? There's something about baseball. It bridges the generations.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing.. As one of Cory's brothers I have great regret for the the amount of games I attended. Time goes by so quick and if I could back the clock I would have set his games at a higher priority because of what the sport meant to him. When I look at Cory as a man however, I realize how much baseball really needed Cory. Baseball needed my brother because it is a game that requires tremendous faith. For even the most successful careers are "successful" half of the time. If you are amazing you end up on base forty-five percent of the time. Cory reminded baseball that even though the numbers may be against you, if you posses character and tremendous faith you will have no regrets... On or of off the field. I love ya bro.


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