A change of season

It’s been a painful spring so far, for me and for my Dodgers.

Emotional upheaval aside, it’s 43 degrees and so windy I’m watching porch chair cushions blow around the yard in my current abode on the second official day of spring. It’s also a day after the Dodgers announced the latest blow to what was supposed to be a deep roster.

Less than half an hour after being slated as the No. 5 starter, Mike Bolsinger felt something in his left side while throwing warmup pitches and was shut down with an abdominal injury. He joins Brandon Beachy, a two-time veteran of Tommy John surgery who is resting a sore elbow, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, whose comeback has been slowed by soreness in his throwing shoulder, on the wait-and-see reserve. The news is worse for Brett Anderson, sidelined for three to five months by back surgery.

In the field, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, and Corey Seager have also missed time with injuries this spring.

All this is making it a little difficult, despite my best efforts, to be optimistic for Opening Day, which for the Dodgers is Monday, April 4, at San Diego.

By that time, I will be semi-settled into a new house in a new-but-old town, and a week into a new job. I’m trying very hard to be optimistic about that, too.

I love baseball in ways that are hard to articulate. I’m writing this in my daddy’s study, where a bookcase holds the Duke Snider baseball card that was a combo Father’s Day/Mother’s birthday gift many Junes ago. While I grew up cheering the loudest for the Washington Redskins, Clemson football, and ACC basketball, baseball was a slower-acting addiction, seeping into my blood and winding its way to my heart, where it silently burrowed into the muscle.

The dilemma, when asked my favorite sport in my younger days, was choosing between college and pro football, with college basketball a strong 1B. I had a fuzzily happy memory of a Dodgers spring training game when I was seven, when the apple in Jay Johnstone’s mouth dripped onto my autograph, and a vague feel-good recollection of Fernandomania that same year. I remembered the disbelieving joy of watching Kirk Gibson hurry-hobble around the bases in 1988, and the straight-up disbelief of the Pedro Martinez-for-Delino DeShields trade.  (I'm not entirely sure why we are Dodger people. I suppose the East Coast choices to those reliant on strong radio signals once were Dodgers, Yankees, or Giants. I'm grateful my parents chose wisely.)

Still, a copy editor from two papers and a decade ago surprised me when she asked me if baseball was my favorite sport. I said no, and wondered aloud why she would ask that. She told me I wrote about it well.

In seven years of covering the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans, the Atlanta Braves’ high-level Class A affiliate, I certainly wrote a lot about baseball. There are roughly 70 home games in a minor-league season, plus any important and near-enough road or postseason series. I watched a lot of baseball. I saw every conceivable way to score runs or get outs or make errors. I saw walk-off hit-by-pitches and balks. Once, I saw a perfect game. (You can read more details about that here, where you'll also see that I am a bona fide Wikipedia -- oxymoron alert -- reference. Guess I am a success, after all.)

I saw talented kids turn into mature men. I saw Adam LaRoche’s swing and knew it was something special. I saw Jeff Francoeur throw tagging runners out at the plate from right field on the regular. I walked the post-game warning track from clubhouse to clubhouse as fireworks exploded above my head and bits of sulfuric paper rained down into my hair. I saw friends waving from the stands, and on nights I didn’t have to work, I got to join them. I sat on the grassy berm in left field, beer in my hand, sun in my eyes, laughter in my ears.

Maybe that’s when baseball became my favorite sport. Or maybe it was when I went to a game at a pretty ballpark hard by the Elizabeth River with a guy I was dating, and watched his daughter run the bases for the first time.

The three of us watched baseball in Norfolk, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, and Tampa. We saw presidents race and hot prospects put on a show and the Liberty Bell at Citizens Bank Ballpark light up in victory. The guy who became my husband and I have also seen games in Baltimore and New York, and we’ve talked of traveling to every major-league park in the country – and Toronto. We’ve made it through National League Championship Series where his Phillies beat my Dodgers, and he’s taken pictures of Vin Scully in the booth for me when work has taken him to L.A. – and Dodger Stadium.

I suppose, in baseball, I find the comfortable co-mingling of the professional and the personal that I struggle with so much just about everywhere else.

I feel rather far away from all that right now. I won’t be watching dolphins circle a garish sculpture in slow motion or the blue shark win the sea creature race or the go-go dancers shake their money makers at the Clevelander on Opening Day, and I likely won’t see any of that this entire summer. But I may in September, the weekend before my birthday, when the Dodgers come to town. I hope so.

As spring slowly unpacks its bags and Opening Day slides ever closer on the calendar, I hope so.