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Baseball: Love is in the Air

miller-article1With MLB teams reporting for spring training last week, I reflected on my love interest – baseball. 

Baseball had my heart from the beginning.  I remember the early days of playing tee ball as a youngster and being quite horrendous.  I tested the waters in other sports, but nothing else held my attention the way baseball captured it.  Little League was the next step, and I absolutely fell in love with America’s pastime.  However, for me, it was America’s present and future.  Playing baseball five or six days a week became commonplace for me from fifth to eighth grade.  Gaining the talents from my all-city softball mother, I was always swinging a bat or playing catch.  Soon the neighborhood kids were picking teams to play wiffleball in the cul-de-sac.  It could be night or day, a school night or the weekend.  Ball of some kind was always on our young minds.  

We would trade baseball cards faster than Ichiro can round the bases.  Life was baseball.  Or, more importantly, to us, baseball was life. 

I’ve always been fascinated by sports.  Every sport from badminton to lacrosse catches my eye.  But, I remember the exact day when I became fixated on baseball.  March 14, 1998, was when the love affair began.  I had my best game of the season for the Mighty Midget Mariners.  I went 4 for 4 with two doubles, two singles and six runs batted in.  Up until that day, I was only familiar with the letter K.  I finished the spring season with a batting average below .250, and I’m quite sure if we played more than 17 games that year that I had the ability to break Ryan Howard’s record of most strikeouts in a season.  That season, we were 16-1.  As a team, we were fantastic, but I was just mediocre.  Although, I could turn a double play if given the opportunity.  And, after our only loss, I was considered the team’s good luck charm because the weekend of our loss I was in Augusta, Georgia, visiting relatives. 

I felt pain when I heard my friend Steven say, “We lost 6-4 to the Royals.”  It crushed me.  My love never wavered.  I did hesitate about continuing to play organized ball because my talent never took me to the upper echelon that I felt I had to reach.  So my love carried me to stadiums to watch Major League Baseball and to my couch to soak in hours of TBS-aired Atlanta Braves games.

Planning family vacations almost always required my sitting down with my Dad to plan which baseball games we could attend.  In fact, I could probably write a book on all of our experiences with baseball.  And I feel that we have many more years of traveling the country to watch what I consider the greatest spectator sport on Earth. 

My Dad helped fuel my passion for baseball and overall love of sports.  He has helped guide me to a career in sports broadcasting.  We have cemented memories that I can hopefully share with my children and their children.  Baseball has shaped our father-son relationship.  We have been to 16 MLB parks and seen 19 current teams play live.  There is still time to continue making the memories with America’s present and future game as the backdrop. 

So, as I hear the words “play ball” resonate through my head, I can smell the ballpark hot dogs and the newly mowed outfield.  As long as I live, baseball will be my one true love interest.  It was love at first swing.

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Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio.  Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. 

Richard also contributes to Inside the Game with Robin Valetutto every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.  Currently, he is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010. 

Follow Richard’s daily blog on The Jacksonville Observer or you can e-mail Richard at Richard.miller@jaxobserver.com

2 Responses »

  1. Ever since baseball players became free agents I have been disappointed with the game. To watch the same players year after year like STARGELL, SANGUILLEN, HEBNER and CLEMENTE was exciting to say the least.

    I would lay awake at night listening to Bob Prince call the games on WKDKA Pittsburgh.

    Now football and baseball have been under a new attack. High security has limited the average man from taking the family to the game. Mom can't cook a few dogs, Dad can't carry in a six-pack of beers and even water is not allowed. Taking food and drink in the parks never affected the amount of money we spent on snacks and beer. It just made it feel homey.

    I took the family to a CUBS game in Chicago in August. They will allow you to take in the kitchen sink if you'd like. We took in Subway Sandwiches, Big Bags of Peanuts and even Big Gulps. And, we still bought beers, crackerjack and other items.

    Now that's what I'm talking about. Before you die . . . take your family to a Cubs game. It is the most exciting, intimate and fun park in the nation. What a real baseball and football game used to be.

    TAKE NOTE JAGUARS . . . LET IN THE FOOD AND DRINK AND THE FANS WILL COME. What you lose in dollars you'll gain in the fans love of the game. Squeezing the family is not the sport.

    GO JAGUARS!

    Take me out to the ballgame . . . Go Jacksonville Suns and Peter Bragan Family!

  2. I am heading to spring training and making my reservations now.