I'm going to level with you: 20 or so entries into Stealing Home, the chronicles of my baseball road trip of a lifetime, I hit a wall. I was worried. Afraid that I'd leave you thinking each and every ballpark was the same. On my way back to Toronto in June, after visiting all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in only 55 days, I was invited onto The Fan 590's Prime Time Sports. The Globe And Mail's very own Jeff Blair was hosting the program that evening, and, as he bid me adieu after my segment, he said: "the writing's the hardest part." I didn't know what he meant; at that point I'd been regularly churning out columns. I understood only after I settled back into regular life -- whatever that is -- after four and a half months of traveling. And Mr. Blair, a veteran in this business, was right. I found myself unable to write. In search of inspiration, I bought and read John Updike's Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. I absolutely loved it. Yet, after reading the legendary essay, I felt even worse. How could I ever write half as brilliantly about baseball as the late Mr. Updike? In baseball speak, in my attempts to get to home plate, I tried to bowl the catcher over; take him out. Instead, I took the brunt of the blow, the catcher left standing, triumphantly holding the baseball in his hand. I was out. Dead on arrival.
But, as is more often than not in baseball, you get another at-bat. Another shot. And, as we reset once more here at Stealing Home, I'll be honest with you: I miss it. I miss baseball. Dearly. I miss being on my baseball pilgrimage. That's another reason why I've had, and am still having, such a tough time finishing Stealing Home. One part of me can't believe I pulled it off. The baseball road trip of a bloody lifetime! Another part of me doesn't want the experience -- and its documentation -- to end. It went by too fast, as most good things in life do. If I could turn back time, I'd rewind back to Chicago. Back to Wrigley Field's bleachers, where I sat with my older brother, watching the Cubs on an overcast Sunday afternoon in May. And here I always naively believed that it wasn't possible for baseball to pass me by.
As one of the blessed few with access to Rogers Sportsnet One since the fiasco began, along with a subscription to MLB Extra Innings, I watched my fair share of baseball since, well, "stealing home." But it wasn't the same. Not at all. I missed being on the road, travelling from city to city, ballpark to ballpark, baseball my entire existence. As much as I complained about how brutal, at times, the travel was, I longed to be back on the bus, back on the Greyhound, reading Joe Posnanski's The Soul of Baseball, or Dirk Hayhurst's The Bullpen Gospels, my next stop, and next magnificent baseball theatre, mere hours away.
For 55 days, nothing in the world mattered but baseball. Baseball and the daily weather forecast. That's it. I wasn't worried about finding a job in beat up and still bleeding economy, as I am now. I wasn't kicking my own ass for not asking The Globe And Mail to cover more of my expenses, as I am now. I wasn't even worried -- not as much as I should have been, at least -- about my burgeoning Visa bill, as I certainly am now. No, it was a simple time. Just me and MLB's 30 ballparks. Me and the road. Me and baseball. And as the 2010 regular season wrapped up on Sunday, so did my summer of baseball. I understand I may never be as close with the game again, a realization that has left me feeling nothing short of depressed. But I have no regrets. Only fond memories. As summer rolls into fall, the warm weather into cold, and regular season baseball gives way to the post-season, I will be finishing Stealing Home. And it was in Denver, Colorado, at Coors Field on a crisp Tuesday night in late May, where I pick up the journey, and where I was reminded why I'd fallen in love with baseball all over again.
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