It's my 43rd one. I know, I don't even remotely remember the first few. But by age 5, I was hooked. My dad was a baseball fan. I remember the thrill he got when WTBS in Atlanta started carrying the Braves games for us in our area. Atlanta's team was my dad's team. Because of their nationwide broadcasts, it became America's team...and, very quickly, it became mine.
I spent many nights listening to my dad as he would cheer on his "Bravos." He would alternately scream at the umps, gripe at poor playing and cheer for his favorite players. It was because of him that I fell in love with the game...and with America's team. Night after night, from spring through summer and into late fall, I would watch guys like Bob Horner, Biff Pocoroba and Glen Hubbard. Dale Murphy was my first real sports hero. I tried to pitch like Al Hrabosky (the mad Hungarian) and to lay down bunts like Rafael Ramirez. And, like most of America, I watched with admiration as "Hammering" Hank Aaron cleared the wall with home run number 715 and trotted the bases at Fulton County Stadium.
It's back. That game I love so well. The one that makes me act like a kid. The one that compels me to rearrange my schedule for the first pitch, sacrifice time to make an annual visit or two to the "Ted", and to spend hours in my yard throwing a baseball with Harrison. Today, millions of kids (and dare I say more than a few 43 year olds) across this country will dream of what could be or could have been. And quietly, from their lips, will slip a phrase that grants a rush of adrenaline like few others. "Play ball!"