It's been said that in spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.
But for most young men, with my apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, spring is a time when young men's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of fresh cut grass and pine tar, the sound of a baseball bat hitting the ball with its sweet spot, and the promise of a spring and summer filled with baseball excitement, drama and memories.
It's a game unlike any other in the world. Sure, football and basketball are more up-tempo and flashier, but that's what makes baseball so great.
The game is like a beautiful piece of orchestral music, smooth and flowing, crescendo-ing at the right moment and never allowing itself to be hurried.
It's a game and a part of life that is shared between fathers and sons, husbands and wives. The game is enjoyed by the family as they sit on the outside patio for dinner, a small radio playing the play by play as they spend time with one another.
Baseball is a romantic game.
For many young boys, there are few things more important during the warm summer than following their favorite ball player and their team and pretending to be him during pick-up games at dusk.
For me, it was Jim Thome. He came into the league as a skinny third baseman, joining a group of established stars and future superstars on a team ready to become a major success.
He seemed like a normal guy with a great deal of baseball talent, played the game the right way and enjoyed it.
He wore his socks different than most others at the time, and his batting stance was unique.
I watch the game now and as the culture of the game continues to change and players rarely remain with their original clubs for more than a couple years, I wonder if this type of thing will remain.
Little boys have, since the game began, picked their favorite player. There was DiMaggio, Gehrig, Gibson, Musial, Koufax, Mantle, Reggie and Hank and so many more.
Picking that favorite player is a right of passage for a young baseball fan, an identifying character in their lives that they emulate on the field and root for louder than anyone when they come up to bat.
We used to trade and collect baseball cards, holding onto our favorite like gold, willing to give up more valuable cards if a missing favorite became available.
The memories of going to games, hoping to get a chance to see your favorite player hit a home run or pitch a great game, was just part of the excitement of summer days at the ballpark.
It was spending it with brothers, sisters, moms and dads, all talking about how the game was when they were young. Being taught the lessons of the game that only seasoned fans would know, the unspoken rules of the game.
The game has changed in so many ways that it hardly resembles the game that was played when guys like the Babe or Ted Williams played, but it remains a child's game.
Look for an open lot during the summer, grass lots and parking lots, and count how many are filled with young men, playing the game without the help of referees, crowds, contracts or even real bases.
They play because they love it and want to be a part of it.
When my boys were born, I didn't imagine them playing baseball in front of million of people, I imagined them playing catch in the backyard, playing wiffleball until it was too dark to see and sitting next to me on a humid Cleveland summer evening watching the Tribe.
The hope of a championship is always there as a new season begins, but there is also an excitement to think that there are going to be 162 games over the course of six months in which to enjoy, teach, share and create memories.