Sunday, February 24, 2013

Springtime: a new season starts and a storied career ends

Yesterday, a few moments after 1:00 p.m., I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as the game time music began and Jerry Howarth gave his customary intro to the Blue Jays first grapefruit league game. I’d been listening to the pre-game show (with an excellent interview by Mike Wilner of Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey) since 12:30, but now we were 2 or 3 minutes before the ball would be thrown in an actual game. To say that I had been going through severe baseball deprivation the past month is putting it mildly.

To hear those usual ballpark sounds, the crowd noises, the crack of the bat, and with the more intimate minor league park (Joker Marchant Stadium), a bit of the actual chatter of the players. Even though the weather wasn’t really talked about (other than the cogent fact that it was very windy towards the outfield), but I could almost feel the warmth and see the deep green of the ball diamond. And it “felt” great, let me tell you.

When listening to a ball game on the radio – my preferred way to experience games when not at the park – you still have a lot of time to think about other things. It’s one of those things that makes baseball such a great game to follow – unless you don’t like being along with your thoughts.

What I will often do during the break between innings is to cruise the baseball news out on the Internet. I ran across some interview video of Joe Garagiola’s retirement after 57 years in broadcasting. That’s on top of a 9-year baseball career. Do you think he knows baseball?

I don’t remember Joe as a ball player, but I do remember him as a baseball broadcaster and frequent guest and host on TV shows where his very quick wit and easy manner of communicating made him so memorable. I hope I’m not wrong, but Joe has always seemed to be such a great guy, you wanted to get together with him over a few beers and talk about baseball, the universe and everything.

So, a new season is just getting underway with an enjoyable month in Florida or Arizona to get our fan chops in gear as we listen to the Major League players and minor leaguers who hope to be Major League players shake off the rust, try some new things and prepare for (hopefully) the next six month’s worth of games.

At the same time, another storied career has drawn to a close. Joe isn’t gone, but his presence in ballparks across the country will be missed. Since he’s just such a great storyteller, I think it’s only right to close this post with Garagiola’s own words and what better way to do it than leaving ’em laughing?

Click here: Joe Gargiola retirement news conference clip.

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