Sunday, September 26, 2010

Patrick Wallace Outside Space/Place Essay

A Baseball Field

Summer. Fall. Winter. Spring. Heat and humidity. Wind and rain. Slippery roads and dry colds. Showers and flowers. The Midwest illustrates all 4 seasons not 12 months with days and hours. Months are measurements for homework and assignments, seasons are experiences to live, love, hate, and restart. But how one starts to describe a natural year in the Midwest could tell their entire life story. Do they start with the awful humidity of summer months, or the blistering dry chills of a January winter? Which season is their natural starting point? In my mind, it has only ever made sense to start with the heat and humidity, the dirt and grass, the summer.

Life’s a journey, and the best two word combination to describe such journey: love/hate. The summer months are very love/hate. Some days we love, some days we hate. Some days we wish we could just hit the restart button. But some days, some days we just live. We figure, “Well, I woke up still breathing, I guess I’ll make the most of it.” When we don’t know why exactly, but we just go through life’s motions and see what happens, and those are the days. The days we feel like we are drifting through air.

On a baseball field in the summer, that’s a season for living. The days I drift through air not worried about a purpose. When the wind softly blows and feels like heaven, the sun reflecting off the bright green grass and the dirt feels soft beneath my feet. It’s a feeling without words, a scenery that can’t help but mesmerize, a place without worry. Time stands still as I drift through the motions of life.

We mention a person’s “place” as something of the past in many ways, something with tradition. It should give that person a nostalgic sense of emotion and warm feelings. Well, what’s warmer than summer? But, that is not my point. Essentially, places invoke emotion, as opposed to a “space” which invokes little emotion or attachment, but rather, a space means freedom and openness. So, if that’s how we define place and space, I suppose a baseball field for most people would be a space. There’s no emotional attachment, one baseball field is the same as any other, grass surrounding a pile of dirt, white chalk and people (players), half of which are more into themselves than beauty pageant wannabes. To me however, a baseball field, rather it be major leagues or a little league field, is my one and only place.

Perhaps I’m simplistic for thinking of a ball field as my place. Hell, a baseball field is about as simple as a place gets: dirt, grass, white chalk, bases and people. By no means does a baseball field display a sense of aesthetic feeling. Rarely is a person going to say, “Wow, that ball field looks so majestic right now.” It’s not about the appearance or emotional attraction though.
There are several aspects involved in a baseball field: Are we talking about the field or the game on the field? Are we talking about an empty field with silence and no one else around, or during a game with the constant buzz of fans surrounding the field? It’s a trick question. It’s everything involved, the sound of the fans and coaches yelling about a bad play, and the silence of walking out on the field after everyone has left. The silence of walking through a park just staring and imagining the game that took place hours or days prior. Envisioning the plays, where the players are standing, the inning, the situation, the score. The field itself, it’s imagined, envisioned in the mind.

Ultimately the baseball field is always silent, and that’s what makes it more than a field or a space in my mind. When I’m on the field, makes no difference if I’m playing, the field is silent. For starters, last I checked dirt, grass and chalk never spoke. Beyond that, when I’m in my place, I remain focused but calm and crowd noise can’t disturb that. I’m there with the mentality, “I woke up, I guess I’ll make the most of it.” It’s a mental game, using an equal combination of brain and brawn. It’s a place for people who may not be the strongest or have the most natural athletic ability, it’s a place for anyone with a little intelligence about the game and quite frankly that’s what I feel a place should represent. Welcoming to all.

From personal to theoretical, as I began in the beginning, a baseball field represents a time for living, drifting by without worries of a purpose and that is why I say summer first when listing the seasons. Summer brings life. Many may believe spring brings life when the sun begins to shine, chills turn to thrills, flowers begin to grow, and that yellow/brown rug in the yard that they call grass, actually looks green again. Not to mention, those damn insects and bees come back and become more and more apparent and aggravating. I feel spring however, is a time to restart. Restart the baseball season, for it was never truly dead (Offseason, hello?). In reality, the grass in your yard never disappeared the life cycle has just restarted following the cold winters. Now the insects and bees, they might disagree with the idea of “restarting” in the spring but I’ve never been much of a fan of their existence anyways.

The sole purpose of this mumble jumble, a baseball field never dies. It never disappears and neither should a person’s place. The dirt may become harder to slide on, the outfield grass may look more like a brown rug, and the aluminum bat may sting the hands a little more, but a place is something a season, or a region like the Midwest can not take from me. Every spring, games will restart and more dreams will become reality. It is truly a field of dreams, pardon the cliché. A baseball field is not a place away from home. It is my home. It’s my place.

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