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Seeing Life Through the Eyes of a Baseball Fan

An article by Tom Gilbert - © April, 2010

I’ve been a baseball fan since I was a young boy. The year that it really hooked me was 1967. We were an Air Force family and moved around a lot. That year we were stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, in the town of Jacksonville.

Hall of Famer Carl Yastremski1967 was sixth grade and being 11 going on 12 I lived vicariously through Major League baseball players. I was convinced that would be my destiny, too. It was a dream that remained a fantasy by the time I was playing High School ball. There I sadly realized the great gulf of talent between me and potential pro players. But in the Fall of ’67 it didn’t matter. I was still young enough to be idealistic, envisioning myself patrolling left field at Fenway Park and catching balls ricocheting off the “Green Monster”, just like my hero, Carl Yastrzemski.

1967 was the year of the Impossible Dream for the Bosox. Yaz won the Triple Crown (leading the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in) and Boston went to the World Series, only to lose a heartbreaking 7-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals. It wouldn’t be the last sad ending to my "almost champs" as I followed the Bosox over the years, but for me it was the first heartbreak. It was even more painful because Little Rock was home to the Cardinals double-A farm team, the Arkansas Travelers. I was the lone kid in school rooting for the Sox. But it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the team; if anything, my loyalty grew over the years.

Having a passion for something – art, music or baseball – can be a good thing. My love of the great American pastime has never waned. I still follow the Red Sox and I was quite thrilled when they finally nailed a World Series win in 2004. I often think about life events as they are framed by summer and baseball. It’s a lens through which I see life and I draw comfort contemplating my existence while watching a game.

Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards book The other day I discovered someone else like me. I’ve never met the man, but he writes a brilliant blog and has now published a book that frames much of his life, lessons and values in the context of baseball. Josh Wilker struggled through a lot of his early life to find his niche, but clearly this writer is in his element with CardboardGods.net. I found about him from a New York Times article written by Greg Hanlon, Through Baseball Cards, a Meditation on Life. When I hyperlinked to Wilker’s blog his post for that day (April 15, 2010) was about a re-issue of Yasktrzemski’s 1960 rookie card. That revealed his passion for the Red Sox. Yaz is “his man”, a mythic figure who grew up rooting for from his rural Vermont home. But even more poignant was how the baseball card reminded him of a summer he spent with his grandfather. It’s a jewel of a story, one of many that focus on his life, events brought to the surface by his musing about various baseball cards he collected from his youth in the 1970’s. Hence the name “Cardboard Gods” for the cards and players. The title of his book is Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards and is available online at Amazon and elsewhere.

So what passion, hobby, sport or avocation provides the insight and perspective for your life story? Consider your muse. It is a gift that can help you connect with the bigger story deep inside you. For me the “crack of the bat, the smell of glove leather, the thrill of a stolen base or a diving catch” will forever be etched in my psyche. Yes, it is only a game – but it is also a conduit for the memories that earmark my life journey.




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