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Baseball is the warmest of friends, and is beautiful in its consistency. It is always there for you no matter what every spring and summer just where you left it. My passion for the game started in 1986, and has only gotten stronger each year. There is something very intriguing about the game. You take a hard leather ball and throw it to a batter with a wooden bat, whose goal is to make it back to where he's standing before being forced or tagged out as he travels around the bases. It's more like a chess game than a dash to score like other sports. There is a lot of downtime and loads of non-activity. Things are done slowly, station to station for the most part, but huge offensive explosions are possible, and excite like nothing else in sport simply because of the tedious buildup. Baseball most closely resembles life out of all the major sports because it has no clock, thus anything can happen, and you come back everyday and play again. If you fail you have to come back out the very next day and do it all over. True, this makes each baseball game less of an event, but being the statheads that most baseball fans are we understand that each game is but a page in the true story. It is the summation of a years worth of work we salivate after, and no game's numbers tell the story without pictures like baseball's.

I started with a child's love for the game. I knew some numbers by heart, but mostly didn't heed the story they told. I thought anyone was capable of hitting a homerun, and thought it would be just great if the Giants won every game 35-0. (That still wouldn't be bad.) Will Clark was not just my favorite player, he was my idol. I also loved Bob Brenly, Robby Thompson, Matt Williams, and Mike Aldrete. They will always remain special to me, and in some small way are the greatest to ever play the game in my eyes. I realize that this is far from the truth, but they are burned in my baseball memory for life. I used to act out the game because sitting and watching was just not enough. I would swing a bat in front of the tv when we were up, and then pretend to pitch and re-enact great plays when we were in the field. Back then there were maybe 35 games televised a year, and luckily, since my old man was a Giants fan, we also ordered about 5 GiantsVision games a year. Still, with only a fourth of the schedule televised it was an event when it occurred. I remember I listened to a lot of games on the radio back then, and loved listening to Hank Greenwald. Most usually talk about his humor, and I do remember some of it, but I think most of it was over my head. What I remember about Hank was how well I felt he conveyed the excitement of what was going on. When the Giants did something well he seemed genuinely thrilled about it.

As time went on my interest in the game evolved, and now I have become much more knowledgeable in the intricacies of the game. That being said, I am still by no means an expert. I learn new things about it every year, and now my focus seems to be less about enjoying it from an outsider's perspective than understanding every move on a detailed level. I now need to know why someone does something rather than just watching it happen. Yet, it's still the same game it has always been. The rules are the same, and the numbers have stayed relatively consistent since the late 1920s. The game doesn't change; we do. Even with our latest controversy in steroids you have an inherent problem with the people who play the game, not the game itself. It's still the same game played by Cobb, Williams, Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig and Mays. It has outlasted all of them, and it will outlast all of us.

I remember my first game. It was at Candlestick Park, and the Giants were playng the Astros. The Giants won that day, but the score escapes me, though 5-1 sounds right. I remember none of the action, but I do remember getting a hot dog, wearing a Giants t-shirt, bringing a glove, and thinking that this was the greenest grass I had ever laid eyes on. In fact the latter is what sticks out in my mind the most. The grass' green brilliance splashed my eyes and gave me a feeling that I've never lost. It said, "welcome home, this is heaven." It wasn't lying.

Lest we forget, though, that baseball can also be hell. The Giants have put us through times that would try the hardest of baseball fans. Baseball, though, is like a marriage. You have to take the bad with the good, and it is only through the experience of the bad that the good can truly be appreciated. In some ways its worse/better than marriage because I would venture to say it's easier for some to leave a marriage partner than it would be to foresake his or her team. Those that left after the strikes, or claim steroids have ruined the game were never that into the marriage in the first place if you ask me. Any true fan of baseball knows the game is bigger than the scandals. When all is said and done matters are still decided on the field of play, and new generations of ballplayers will come to take the place of the disgraced.

So now we are about to start it all over again. We've gone and gotten ourselves six weeks from the start of spring training. Cap Anson's boys hated Spring Training when he first invented it back in the late 19th Cenutry, but I am ever thankful he started the tradition. If I was actually forced to wait until April to see anything baseball I would go insane. Spring Training says, "relax, baseball's coming." The marathon is about to begin and I think this year before it gets going we need to all remember the wonder we entered the game with, and how we used to love every player simply because they wore the orange and black. This year instead of cursing eveybody on the team, and management, remember how much it would have hurt your feelings to hear someone say that about the guys who were in those positions when you were growing up. Remember baseball is a comfort and is there to be enjoyed. It is meant to bring joy, not hardship. That being said, if we revert back to a losing season it'll kill me...

(The Realistic Giants Fan appears every Monday and Friday. Feel free to email me at realisticgiantsfan@yahoo.com)


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