SOMETHING IN THE AIR
JUPITER, FLORIDA, FEBRUARY 22–In his wonderful book, “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend,” James Hirsch frequently quotes the “Say Hey” kid saying something other than “Hey!” “There’s something in the air, “ a beaming Willie would say each February at the start of Spring Training.
Willie Mays said this every year in Scottsdale, Arizona, the winter home of his beloved Giants.
I am not in Scottsdale today. I am here In Jupiter, winter home of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals, and as the Redbirds prepare to take the field for the Spring Training opener against the New York Mets, I can tell you, there’s something in the air.
You can smell it...the fresh mown green grass on the field of Roger Dean Stadium, and in the stands, the steamy hot dogs and, and the bottles of what the great Cardinal Dizzy Dean, called “cold ones.”
You can feel it in the eager anticipation of the fans ready for 162 games from April through September, and , the Good Lord willing, more in October.
Also in the air are memories of watching Bob Gibson pitch, Stan the Man hit, Ozzie Smith slide, and hearing Harry Carey scream “Holy Cow!” through the earpiece of my old transistor radio.
And also in the blue sky south Florida air are dreams of seasons and playoffs and Series to come.
This will be my sixtieth season with the Cardinals. It began in 1960 when at the age of eight, I began playing second base for the Cardinals. Not for the St. Louis Cardinals in old Sportsman’s Park, but the Dellwood Baptist Church Cardinals on a sandlot of dreams in north Memphis. My dream was to move up from the Dellwood Baptist Cardinals to the Memphis Chicks and eventually to the St. Louis Cardinals. But I couldn’t hit a curve ball. I also couldn’t hit a fastball, a knuckle ball or a slow pitch softball. I couldn’t turn a double play or even execute the infield fly rule.
But I never gave up my dream, and as I sit here today in Roger Dean Stadium beside my bride (who looks fabulous in red), I am still that little boy dreaming of playing second base like Julian Javier and hitting the ball like Stan the Man.
I would need to borrow a leather glove and a bat, but I am ready if Mike Shildt wants to put men in for Kolten Wong or Brad Miller.
There is indeed something in the air.