On Valentine's Day, I'll hear the sweetest four words ever spoken.
No, it's not 'I love you honey' or 'Have another beer, babe,' although I wouldn't mind the latter. The beauty of this particular phrase lies in its simplicity: 'Pitchers and catchers report.'
It's not even a phrase, really. It's more of a command imploring me to enjoy lazy afternoons on the sofa or muggy evenings in the cheap seats with my one and only - baseball. Once spring training starts, I'm off the market, 100 percent sold on the game.
Sure I've had other flings - football sure looks good on a Saturday afternoon in the fall and basketball's good for a slam dunk every now and then - but really, baseball, you've always been my one and only.
We've had our ups and downs, like the strike-shortened season in 1994 when you broke my heart, but I just couldn't stay away.
You had me at 'Play Ball.'
There's just something about spending time with you, sitting in the outfield, watching a game with friends, drinking a few $5 beers and telling the umpire to bend over and use his good eye that makes my knees turn to Jell-O.
When it comes down to it, is there a more romantic sport than you?
Show me a high-schooler that doesn't use the baseball standard when relaying his latest romantic conquest to his buddies at the lunch table and I'll show you a kid that isn't getting any. But I'll bet he knows where second base is.
Sure there's debate, but everybody knows what it means to hit a home run or get gunned down from the outfield trying to stretch a double into a triple.
So it's with this in mind, baseball, that I've chosen you over dozens suitors. You're the best Valentine around.
It was a tough choice between you and football. Those Saturday afternoons at the stadium watching college games were fun, but there's no seventh-inning stretch, just marching bands at halftime. The NFL isn't much better. Baseball, I'd take you any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
I thought for a while hockey might be the one, but with all those players whose last names won't fit on the back of their jerseys, I just couldn't keep up. Darren Pang and Barry Melrose aren't fit to hold Jack Buck's microphone or Harry Carey's beer. It's OK Panger, we can still be friends.
Basketball is just a weak substitute. Unlike those hacks in the NBA, your professionals play hard all the time. Plus that Marv Albert guy gives me the creeps. I'm sorry Mr. Stern. It's not you, it's me.
Your closest competitor was golf, but it's just too quiet and reserved for me. I need a little conflict every now and again to keep things interesting. Please don't cry Tiger, I never meant to hurt you.
You see, it's always been you, baseball. We grew up together. I ran down the hill from school and flipped on WGN to catch the end of a Cubs game. It's you that put me to sleep with the sound of bats cracking and gloves popping from the radio on my night stand. It's you that warms me up every October.
You're the only one that really understands me, baseball.
You don't mind if I spit or scratch myself - in fact, you encourage it.
You don't get mad at me if I drink a few too many beers, you just cut me off after the seventh so I'll get home safely. So sweet.
Some people say football has taken your place as the national pastime, but don't believe them. It's got nothing on you in my book.
You'll always be my Valentine.
Baseball: no one-night stand
Published: Tue Feb 12, 2002 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 04:04 p.m.