It was one of those moments when something just happens without any warning or buildup.
I shed tears of joy.
Yes, is this what I’ve come to in my mid-40s? Writing my first column in a couple of months about how I’ve become a bawling, babbling buffoon in middle age?
No, this is not what this column is about.
It’s about baseball, of course.
The tears — well at least the lump in my throat, the moistness of my eyes and the sogginess of the sleeve of my T-shirt — arrived last Friday morning as I sat in this very seat at home watching highlights on my laptop of the Orioles beating the Yankees on the night they unveiled the Cal Ripken Jr. statue at Camden Yards.
As I watched the film of the Orioles hitting three homers in the bottom of the 8th to break a 6-6 tie, I lost it.
I called my wife later and told her about it and swore her to secrecy. She’s off the hook now.
I’m sharing because I think a lot of people — especially fans of the team from Baltimore — also shed tears that night. Or at least felt a little nostalgic.
(And I sure hope some Yankee fans cried, too.)
The reasons for the tears? There’s plenty. The joy of being in a pennant race again, the thrill of relevance, the ecstasy of beating the Yankees, the ringing endorsement of how absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Of course, it also could have been the lack of sleep over the past six months and the stress and strain of jobs, kids, bills, life.
As I struggled last Friday morning with this emotional upheaval, my first thought was to call my dad.
He passed away more than five years ago. My brothers and all my buddies were at work, and everybody else either doesn’t care or was busy with life.
It hit me then that it wasn’t necessarily the Orioles’ surprising success this year and the rousing victory in front of a rejuvenated fan base that night, but it was baseball itself.
I love pro football. I love to watch it, pick the games, play fantasy football and talk smack with anyone who will listen.
People are passionate about it, and about college football.
But it’s not baseball.
My earliest memories are centered around baseball — Little League, the ballfields in Waynesboro, Pa., where I grew up, buying Orioles tickets from Bill George at the Men’s Shop downtown, the four “men” of the family taking in a Phillies game at the Vet on a warm day so many summers ago. (Bake McBride hit a three-run homer that day for the Phils.)
My friend and co-worker Meg Partington is sharing tales of her 11-year-old’s Little League exploits and I love them.
Baseball was something my father and I could always talk about — no matter the gap between us. It was a conversation starter, ender and a tweener. I know my brothers — who attended many games with him while he had season tickets to the O’s — felt the same way.
I had a dear friend named Scott Thornton. No matter what was going on in our lives or where we were — third grade, 10th grade, college or in the third-base box at Memorial Stadium enjoying a “tallboy” — we always could strike up a conversation about baseball. Never mind politics and music; baseball was our bond. I miss my old buddy. I miss talking baseball.
Baseball bridges generations and genders. Fathers and sons, grandpas and grandsons, mothers and daughters.
It’s an amazingly difficult game to play with strange rules, odd measurements, obnoxious fans and plenty of spitting and scratching.
However, it’s beautifully simple and enjoyable if you take it for what it is: a fun game in which you get a chance to redeem a previous failure the next night or at-bat.
It also teaches us about winning and losing, and building character and controlling our emotions when needed.
Now, I see baseball from a new perspective. Or at least one that I had forgotten. My favorite team is relevant for at least the rest of the month, and who knows, maybe into October. Plus, with a baby boy joining the family, I sleep well at night knowing there will be plenty of baseball and sore shoulders in my future.
All I know is that I’m going to enjoy this ride as long as it lasts and try not to shed any more tears. It’s bad for my laptop’s keyboard. And there’s no crying in baseball.
Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail. You can reach him at 301-791-7281 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.