I must admit that for the moment I'm weary of politics, disgusted with corporate greed, disturbed at what seems to be a complete and inborn inability for people to cohabit peacefully and play well with others, and bemused that anyone seriously thinks that having a different name on the desk in the Oval Office will do anything other than change which group of fat cat supporters gets fatter living off their candidate's largesse during the next Presidential term of office.
I need a break.
Fortunately, I myself am living large since the men's basketball team representing my firstborn child's alma mater recently won the NCAA National Championship. How great it was for this old boy, a veteran of many 16-hour one-way drives from our town to Lawrence whilst that oldest daughter matriculated, to chant along with the Kansas fans what no less formidable a man than Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed to be the greatest cry in all of collegiate sports: "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, K. U."
Still, though, earlier this week I listened to as much of the most inane political debate I've ever heard. Feeling it to be my patriotic duty to stay informed, I tuned in as the two candidates for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination debated. In the old days I would most likely have assigned listening to said debate as homework for my social studies classes. But try as I might, five minutes into it I could handle no more obfuscation.
I need a break.
Fortunately, baseball season has begun. And just as all those collegiate basketball teams had hoped to make it to the Final Four to culminate their hoops season, all those baseball teams out there hope to make it to their respective World Series at the conclusion of theirs.
The truly great thing about baseball is that it's timeless. No matter how scandal has rocked the professional ranks through the years, no matter how much improved equipment has juiced the performance records, baseball is baseball. See the ball and hit it. Three strikes and you're out. Good pitching beats good hitting. "Spahn and Sain and two days of rain." Dizzy Dean. Mickey Mantle. Bobby Thomson and "the shot heard 'round the world." Jackie Robinson. Hank Aaron. Kirk Gibson limping around the bases, pumping his fist.
I've been to exactly one professional baseball World Series. I was 17 when I sat in venerable Tiger Stadium watching the middle three games of the 1968 World Series, which the Detroit Tigers won over the St. Louis Cardinals four games to three. And I can tell you that it was, indeed, magical to attend a World Series. There are many unique and special things in the world, to be sure, but there's just nothing else quite like a World Series.
I've been wondering today just why that is, and I think it's because - it's baseball.
Trust me, now.
See, when you hold a new baseball in your hand, it's like nothing else in the world. Just sitting here, typing, I'm actually feeling a tingle in the tips of my middle three fingers and my thumb on my right hand as I think about it. You look at the baseball, you know, and it's got a hint of a shiny reflection on the horsehide. And there's no dirt, yet, in the little holes where the seams of red thread are stitched into the leather.
And, the thing is, it's timeless. You can pick up a baseball right now and hold it and feel the same wonder you felt 50 years ago when you picked it up and looked at it. When you took it out of the little square carton and unwrapped that tissue paper and just held it.
You'd put on the glove, that big leather glove, and you'd throw it with somebody special. And years later, or a decade, or a lifetime, you can still feel the jolt in your elbow when your son zipped a fastball across the yard a little quicker than you thought he could. And years later, or a lifetime, you still have that glove right where you can get at it - just in case he comes home and wants to throw it a little.
And you'd give anything if he would.
Yeah, I think that's it. Baseball is that timeless connection between daddies and sons and their sons. It's baseball, and it's the same game today that it's always been. Don't try to kill it, just meet it and drive it. Bring me some peanuts and Crackerjack. Root for the home team. And who do you think will win the World Series this year?
Believe it or not, I think the host team from Covington, right here in our own Newton County, will have a really good shot at winning this year's World Series.
What's that, you say?
In case you haven't heard, the Covington-Newton County Recreation Department is hosting the 2008 Dixie Boys World Series this coming August 1-7, at our own City Pond Parks. The state champion teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia will battle it out right here in our town, along with a host team made up of All-Star players from our recreation department teams.
For folks new to our neck of the woods, this will be the fourth time our recreation department has hosted a World Series. Director Tommy Hailey and his staff hosted similar events in 1993, 1997 and 2002. So well were these World Series events conducted that our Rec was catapulted to national prominence. The awards are still coming in, as one of my personal heroes, Tommy Hailey, has never been one to rest on his laurels. He and all the folks at the Rec have continued to improve the facilities and services through the years, a benefit to us all.
Can you remember where you were, and what you were doing, in 1993 when Newton County hosted that first Dixie Boys World Series? How about in 1997 when the second series was hosted here? And although the world had changed so drastically by the time the 2002 World Series was held, baseball was still one important tie helping bind our society together.
Tommy Hailey will be the first to tell you that it takes a lot of people working tirelessly behind the scenes in order to successfully pull off hosting a major event like the 2008 Dixie Boys World Series. And although many dedicated committee members have already been hard at work for months, the Rec Department needs welcome enthusiastic volunteers to help out.
I'd like to invite you to consider helping out. Not only will you be providing youngsters from all across the South with a memory of a lifetime, but you can help showcase Covington and Newton County with your Southern hospitality.
If you'd like to volunteer, the place to start is at the offices of the Recreation Department at the Turner Lake Complex. You can call them at (770) 786.4373, or if online simply go to www.newtonrecreation.com and click on "2008 Dixie Boys World Series" to get more information.
Tommy Hailey will be your contact if you'd like to be a corporate sponsor. And if you'd rather help out with any of a number of committees, ask for Carol Rooks and she'll direct you to the appropriate people. Volunteers will be welcomed to help with the grand opening ceremony, to be held on Covington's historic town square. And there are many areas needing staff support, such as souvenir sales, souvenir programs, welcoming packets, host families for visiting teams and communications.
If you haven't seen the improvements already in place at City Pond Parks, take a few minutes and drive on out to take a look for yourself. There's a new entrance pavilion, additional picnic tables, new bleachers and ample parking. The fields have been reworked, and they'll be resplendent come August.
If actively working the games is not your cup of tea, you may wish to get involved in other ways. The Recreation Department is sponsoring a raffle for a new Chevy Tahoe to help raise money to fund the World Series, and donations are always welcome. And although deadline pressure is not far away, area businesses would do well to consider placing ads in the programs, particularly the souvenir edition, as they will be seen all across the South as the participating teams return to their homes.
Just as I needed a break from the news of the day and got to thinking about baseball and the timelessness of the game that is America's National Pastime, we'll all most likely need a welcome break from politics when the dog days of August roll around. And I can tell you from personal experience that participating as either a worker, or by simply buying a pass good for the entire week's World Series games and going out to the ballpark, the 2008 Dixie Boys World Series will fill the bill just right.
Personally, I'm looking forward to finding a seat in the bleachers, grabbing a handful of sunflower seeds and an ice-cold lemonade, and watching the best of the best play well together at City Pond Park this August, as the Dixie Boys crown their season right here in Covington.
And, yes, I'll be rooting for the home team.
Nat Harwell is a Newton County resident whose column appears Sundays in The Covington News.