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Leon Bibb: Baseball's heart-breaking absence sidelines us

Coronavirus has thrown us a brushback pitch and still demands our constant attention

CLEVELAND — Since the earliest days of my childhood, I have been a fan of the game.  It begins in Spring when boys of summer help us push away the cobwebs of Winter.  Were these normal times, right here, baseball would be played on this field of green.

But as with other parts of our lives, baseball's heart-breaking absence sidelines us.  In the locker rooms of our own lives, we wonder when will we play again.  

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Coronavirus has thrown us a high and dangerous brushback pitch, spinning us from normalcy.  We were caught off-guard, but the head-snapping throw demands our constant attention.  As in so many other aspects of life, so it is in baseball.  

Throughout the years, I have relied on baseball, watching signals between pitcher and catcher; the latter clothed in protective gear, his face under a shielding mask.  

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Today's pandemic reality swings my attention to the protective gear of another sort worn by medical team members dealing with life and death.  
 In baseball, I miss the long lines of fans elbowing into the ballpark.  

Because of high pandemic-fed unemployment, lines of fans are replaced by lines for food.        

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Still, I long for the game which is now played only in my memory.  I remember high skies where the crack of the bat and the thunderous roar of the crowd fell on my ears.  In this socially distant time of the pandemic, I see us as in an anxiety-filled  7th inning stretch where life and death hang in the balance as we wait for the umpire's sign to play ball normally again.  Of that, I am an optimist.    As an old philosopher schooled me in my boyhood and I hold his teachings even today:  "Hope Springs Eternal."

Until we begin again, I will mentally recall the pitcher – centered in the diamond – sending a  screaming sphere for his catcher's glove, hoping to baffle a batter whose intent is to muscle the ball across the field of green.  But these images pulled only from my storehouse of memories because the reality of today is:  GAME CALLED.

So the ballpark is temporarily in a silent wait, empty of ballplayers and of grandstanding crowds of which I would have been a member.  GAME CALLED.  

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But through these tough times comes an understanding of the need to remain apart and close to where we live.    When times get better, the umpire will bellow, "Play ball!"  

Only then will baseball's boys of summer scamper the field.  They will one day, again, run the bases with only one intent.  That is to achieve the goal of the game.  The object in baseball is to be where you and I in our daily lives want to be:  SAFE AT HOME.