Centershots: Rolling back the tarp

It’s that time of year. The time of flip-flops, grill-outs and frozen lemonade. The time when the trees bud, the flowers bloom, pale people like myself buy stock in sunscreen and the grass in center field is the most attractive shade of green there ever was.

It’s baseball season.

I adore March Madness and the incomparable thrill of NCAA basketball, but baseball also captures my heart. I mean, there’s a reason it’s called America’s Favorite Pastime.

No, for real. There’s a reason.

Back in the late 18th to early 19th centuries, people used to spend almost all their free time playing baseball (as legend goes, anyway) and thus it obtained the title. Pretty simple.

Some of my most cherished moments with my parents are watching America’s beloved sport. We love the St. Louis Cardinals, and cheering on any division within the Red Birds organization means taking a plethora of pictures and making memories.

Each trip has its own standout moment but, without fail, my parents try to make each one unforgettable. From their embarassing antics to the sentimental times, they’ve done a great job of keeping me in the present moment, but especially during adventures to the ballpark.

There is just nothing like the atmosphere at a baseball game. From the ticket lines and scorching sun to the obsessive fans and concessions, each game is a moment that will later secure its place on the highlight reel of my favorite memories.

Speaking of concessions, yummy ballpark food is one of the best parts of attending a game. Hot dogs, pizza, popcorn, nachos and burgers create a ribbon of smells that swirl around the concourses as fans browse gift shops and find their seats.

Not only do concessions combine with the dirt to create the distinct smell of the ballpark, they engage multiple senses at once as you smell, taste and hear the sizzle of the grill, the slurp of the sodas and the concession workers yell for the crowd to purchase peanuts and ice cold waters.

Besides baseball food, one of my favorite parts of a ball game is batting practice and watching kids get their hero’s autograph and seeing the little boy within the hearts of grown men come out as they too get autographs. I can’t help but wonder if some of them are mentally reliving the glory days of their time playing ball and in some ways are living out their dream through the players on the field.

I never wanted to be a baseball player – let’s just be real, I could barely play wiffleball – but I still love the Cards and can’t wait to watch the reigning world champs take on the Cubs in their home opener today.

Speaking of the Cubs, we have this weird family dynamic that I’m not especially proud of: my mom is a Cardinals fan unless they’re playing the Cubs at which time she reverts back to her childhood and roots for the Cubs. This is not OK.

Regardless of the family split (my dad and I for the Cards, my mom for the Cubs and my sister and brother-in-law for no sports teams whatsoever), it’s going to be weird watching the Cardinals this year and not seeing Albert Pujols playing first and hitting third, but I’m confident they will do fine without him. They already have.

As I write this they are leading the National League Central and have lost only two of their seven games as opposed to Pujols’ new team, the Angels, who have fallen behind 2-3 and are warming the four spot in the American League West.

Besides all the quality aforementioned attributes, the start of baseball season signals the end of school and means summer is around the corner. What a great way to celebrate the end of school. Batter up.