Most people crave autumn, but August’s finale guts me. Always the heartbreaking close of summer, no matter the weather, always the beginning of the end of baseball season, which is the beginning of the long dark.
Thus begins what I ominously like to call “the long dark”—the vast, vacant space between the last live game you’re able to attend and that gleeful, optimistic day down south where pitchers and catchers report. (It’s just about 136 days, if you’re interested.)
For me, everything in that bleak expanse in-between is waiting—an abyss, a black hole where hope seems so far off. Whenever I lament this end of baseball in such a melodramatic way, someone inevitably says “but the postseason” or “there’s always winter ball,” but for me, it’s always been about the ballpark and my access to it. If I can’t be in it, you can’t convince me there’s something to look forward to.
I’ve never really understood why the ballpark is the one place where I feel the safest, the happiest, and the most like myself. The amazing part is that it doesn’t even matter what ballpark it is—the foreign diamonds found at the end of hasty road trips, the tiny gleeful stadiums of spring training, the neighbourhood parks of intercounty league. Even little leaguers tossing a ball at Christie Pits or drunk friends running the bases in a Toronto park in the dark buoy me. I have some loose theories about justice, and fairness, and community that I throw around when asked, about how it’s the closest I’ve ever been able to come to a religious-style faith, but for the most part the reason for the feeling of calm escapes me, and I refuse to question it.
When I try to unpack my devotion to the church of baseball I actually wonder if it’s better to not write about these things—the sacred, secret places in our lives that keep us whole. Writing is a compulsion, but it’s also a job like any other, and there has to be an escape from it somewhere. Maybe I shouldn’t write about the ballpark in the same way I don’t write about the people who are closest to me, the things I want to keep safe and private. Of course I want to understand what it is about baseball’s sights and smells and sounds that put me so at ease, but maybe it doesn’t matter why. Maybe it just matters that I’ve found something that does.
Baseball is a heartbreaker, and you have to be a bit of a masochist to love it like I do. It is, however, generous enough to give those of us with losing teams a slow transition into the long dark. LM Montgomery’s plucky heroine Anne Shirley said “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers,” and for now I’ll find solace in this final, glorious month—the playoff season and all its generous dramas.
And when winter comes I’ll watch replay montages at my desk while it snows outside, wear a team t-shirt under my scratchy sweater, and set a countdown clock to that hopeful day come spring, when pitchers and catchers report.