Spring in the Carolinas is a beautiful time of year – and it marks the start of another of my favorite seasons – baseball.
Baseball has a great tradition in North and South Carolina, with hundreds of great ballplayers passing through our Minor League teams on the way to the Major Leagues. Players including Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Curt Schilling have all spent time honing their craft on Carolina diamonds.
If you’ve driven past a local ball field in the past few weeks, you’ve likely seen young athletes practicing and playing, with their parents passionately rooting them on. I have a park right around the corner from my home in Lake Norman, and the best part of my drive home from work is to see the kids having fun, playing the game I love.
Baseball is truly the American game, loved by generations of families throughout our country. Fan passions are handed down from father to son and daughter like heirloom jewelry – only more important.
Baseball is also truly an immigrant’s game. The American diamond has been a field of dreams for players from all over the globe: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, Japan, and Mexico, just to name a few. Many Major League ballplayers have escaped tyrannical governments to defect to our great country and play the game, adding their wonderful talents, flavor and passion.
Like America herself, baseball is a place of democratic opportunity. It doesn’t matter where you came from or how much money you have. The only thing that matters is that can you play and you are a good teammate. Baseball was way ahead of society in terms of race integration as well when the Brooklyn Dodgers introduced the great Jackie Robinson way back in 1947.
Many of us remember fondly remember attending our first Major League baseball game. For me, it was in the early 1970s and my Dad brought me. Just Dad and me. We hit a game on a beautiful spring Saturday in the sun at the legendary Shea Stadium in New York City. The crowds, the smells, and the energy of that day are still with me today. The most powerful memory of that day, by far, is seeing that beautiful green field for the first time. It was love at first sight, a love and passion that has stayed with me all of my life. Jim Bouton, the former ballplayer and best-selling author said it best: “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end, it turns out, it was the other way around the whole time.”
So take advantage of this beautiful spring weather and get to one of our great cities in the Carolinas and take in a game. The Charlotte Knights open their season this weekend and the Durham Bulls are home next week. But don’t stop there; Greensboro has their Grasshoppers, Winston-Salem the Dash, and in the Upstate, the Greenville Drive. See our future Major League talent at an affordable price. It’s a wonderful outing for the whole family. Peanuts and cracker jacks included!