“The wise man uses the change of the seasons as the moment for inner change.”
–hexagram 49

The calendar says that spring won’t arrive for a few weeks yet, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s already here. The weather’s warm, the birds are singing, and pitchers and catchers have reported for spring training — what else do you want?

Baseball is tricky for me to write about, because I have a long and complicated relationship with it. When I was a kid, baseball was all I cared about — not just in sports, but in life. The Philadelphia Phillies winning the World Series in 1980 was (and still is) one of the high points of my existence. A pro baseball player was the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up, and when I figured out that that wasn’t going to happen, it was both a great heartbreak and a crucial developmental step.

In my late teens I lost touch with baseball and later, once I discovered basketball, it was all over: the fast-moving urban game trumped the slow-moving pastoral one. I couldn’t stand to watch baseball anymore because the pace was so… brutally… glacial. My baseball watching was limited to switching over during a commercial break in a basketball game — and seeing maybe two pitches in three minutes.

Baseball is like a relative from whom I’ve long been estranged, but I think I’m about ready to give it another chance. Football season is gone, and so is Jon Gruden, making it hard to have a real positive attitude about the Raiders’ future. And that other pro team in town — the one that plays basketball and whose name I am forbidden to invoke—has done nothing to warrant further attention. That leaves the A’s, who may have lost Jason Giambi but have every reason to expect to be a contender this year; and anyway, they have as many wins as any team in the major leagues at the moment. So I’m trying to work myself into that baseball state of mind.

The advent of spring reminds me of what I like about baseball — not the geometric perfection that George Will is always going on about, but the fact that it mirrors the seasons so beautifully. Spring is all about hope and optimism. You can finally get out and run around on the field after a long winter of being cooped up inside (this isn’t quite so true in Oakland as it is other places, but work with me here). In the spring, everybody’s a potential champion, and with the whole year ahead of you, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the fresh air and green grass.

Summer is when the action happens. I won’t rhapsodize about the beauty of a summer’s day at the old ballyard, because I’d feel like a hypocrite, but let’s imagine that I did. Fall is harvest time, when you find out whether the year brings a bumper crop (playoffs) or bust (Montreal Expos). And then it’s back to winter again, time to take it easy, plan for next year, and dream of when the springtime comes around again.

Which is where we came in. If you can’t be hopeful now, then when? So let’s be hopeful. Maybe the A’s will win the World Series this year. Maybe my softball team will win more than three games. Maybe that baseball player or fan in your life will have their best year ever. Maybe we have eight months of good vibes and sunshine ahead of us. I can’t think of a good reason to expect otherwise.