By Mike Albanese, TSB Staff
I have been fortunate enough to have visited some of baseball’s most sacred grounds during my young life.
My eyes gazed upon the “Green Monster” in Fenway, the “Big Apple” in Shea Stadium, the historic halls of Tiger Stadium and the cathedral of baseball that was (“the old”) Yankee Stadium.
I have witnessed Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza hit home runs, walked through Monument Park and along the infield in Boston.
Those memories, however, seemed to have been tainted in time.
No, it wasn’t because of my dad locking his keys in the car in the parking lot of Yankee Stadium, or those indelible memories of him yelling at whoever failed to run out a ground ball to first base.
Instead, those very players who made those memories so bright, darkened and tarnished those vivid images with their actions and lies.
Players like Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez, and all those who lied and cheated their way into record books by way of performance enhancing drugs and steroids tainted those memories, and changed the outlook of millions, including myself, on an era of baseball that saw the sport rise from the ashes of the 1994 lockout, which included the canceling of the Word Series.
However, sitting at Al Alford Field on Wednesday for the opening day of the Mickey Mantle Word Series, a feeling came back to me – a feeling of simplicity.
The baseball played Wednesday was exactly that — baseball — in its most pure and simplest form.
The cheering of parents filled the hot afternoon air, the smack of leather echoed across the field, and the crack of the bat never sounded so loud and pure.
For the first time in a long time, baseball was presented without mention of drugs, suspensions and tainted records. Players played for the love of lacing up the cleats and running the bases, and not for bloated contracts and self-absorbing egos.
The players hustled no matter the situation, ran out every ground ball, sprinted to every fly ball and grinded down each at bat as if it was their last — and of course there were peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
There were no agents Wednesday, no union representatives and no mention of Biogenisis or any other sleazy drug dealers.
But instead, players took the field with just gloves, bats and their socks rolled up just below their knee, and playing the game how it was meant to be played – pure and simple.