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Nothing like baseball on the Fourth

Commentary

Happy Fourth of July! This national holiday is a chance for America to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and gives many of us a day away from work to enjoy all that summer has to offer: picnics, family, fireworks, and of course … sports.

Baseball and the Fourth of July go together like peanuts and Cracker Jack. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people will watch the pyrotechnics after a baseball game. And what could be more American than spending an afternoon enjoying “America’s favorite pastime,” even if its popularity has been surpassed by football?

I remember our family’s first trip to a major league baseball game: it was to see the Philadelphia Phillies in the summer of 1980. I don’t remember who they were playing, but I do remember it was jersey day and we wore our Phillies jerseys so proudly – during the game and for weeks afterwards.

We knew the players by the baseball cards we collected, and the names we heard, mainly on the radio. It was a very special occasion to get to watch the game from the upper decks, to hear the crack of the bat and to contribute to the roar of the crowd. We kept score in our game program and kept it as a souvenir for years.

After decades of doing a job related to sports, it’s easy to forget what it was like to experience a baseball game for nothing but fun; and it was so much more than that: it was awe-inspiring.

Thinking back to walking into that stadium, it seemed as big as the world; and our parking space seemed a million miles away.

It was a thrill to see those professional players in person: Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Manny Trillo, Bob Boone, and on and on…

To then witness that team win the World Series was amazing. The year before, the Pirates had won the World Series, and I imagine that season was the same way for Bucco fans … something you’ll never forget.

Baseball has gone through its share of tough times in recent decades like the players’ strike and steroids revelations. But it’s also had some magical moments, like helping the US recover after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Baseball gave us a reason to come together, to smile and to cheer.

Sports can do that: remind us of things that we as Americans share, like a love for our country, enjoyment of competition, and our pride in the home team.

So baseball will serve as the backdrop to lots of patriotic celebrations today, like most days at ballparks, where folks will stand to sing the National Anthem, root for the home team, and enjoy time with friends and family, from sea to shining sea.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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