SAFE AT HOME
JUPITER, FLORIDA: I am home. Safe at home. I am over 800 miles from the house in Memphis I call home, but I am also home today, in a baseball park on a glorious sunny afternoon.
I am with my family...my extended family, the St. Louis Cardinals. I adopted them and they adopted me nearly 60 years ago when my father took me to my first Major League Baseball game in Sportsman Park in St. Louis. I saw the Cardinals play the Milwaukee Braves. The boys of summer I met that day included Stan Musial and Bob Gibson for the Cardinals and Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn for the Braves.
It was the best day of a wonderful childhood and led to a life-long love affair with baseball in general and the Cardinals in particular.
As a boy I fell asleep on summer nights with a transistor radio on my chest listening to Harry Carey broadcast the Cardinals games.
When I was 12, I raced home from school on October afternoons to watch the last couple of innings of World Series games between my Cardinals and the Yankees. In those Autumn days the World Series was played in sunshine and broadcast into my home in black and white on a TV set with rabbit ears. I remember seeing my hero and fellow Memphian Tim McCarver hit a game-winning three-run homer in Yankee Stadium in Game 5. And I remember playing hookie from school (I faked an illness) to watch the entirety of Game 7 as Bob Gibson willed the Cardinals to a World Championship.
And now over a half century later, I am back in Florida at spring training with my Cardinals. Easter is coming, and so is opening day, and hope springs eternal.
At the age of 63, I am still that little boy whose father took him to his first MLB game long ago. I am still dreaming to play second base for my Cardinals.
And here I am at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, wearing a Cardinals cap and enjoying every pitch, every hit, every inning.
No, I am not on the diamond playing second base. I am not in the batter's box digging in and waiting for the pitch.
But I am a Cardinal and always will be.
And I am home. Safe at home.