Driving by Busch Stadium this past weekend made me come up with a Mark Twain-esque feeling about the ballpark.
And this applies to all stadiums our great national pastime is played in.
"Ballparks are time capsules we bury in winter and dig up in spring. We know what's inside, yet it's more beautiful each season."
I'm certainly not like Mark Twain by any means — after all this is just a thought that came into my head driving past the home of the Cardinals on I-64 — but I think it holds truth.
When the third out of the ninth inning is recorded in 20 cities, the fans leave, the gates are locked and everyone waits for next year. For 10 teams there's an extension for fans to come through the turnstiles and root for their respective teams to succeed in the playoffs and reach the World Series. But even then, when the championship is won, when the champagne is cleaned up, the ballpark becomes a locked fortress.
Ballparks are a symbol of summer, a symbol of youth, the symbol of great memories. They represent our cities, define neighborhoods and downtowns, and stand out as not only a skyline feature but immaculate pieces of art built to host a game far greater than we can ever imagine.
Across the world in many countries, you'll find palaces and castles. Some are merely tourist attractions, some are still homes to those in power. But with the exception of Disney World and Disney Land, some may say America doesn't boast castles and castles. Well, those folks haven't been to a ballpark.
Think about it.
Each ballpark is an ornate facility built to entertain the fans every summer. It could be a major league franchise, it could be a minor league affiliate, it could be an independent league team. No matter what level of baseball is played at the ballpark, it is still our great game that entices us with each pitch and swing. And it is the uniqueness of the ballpark which provides such a wonderful setting.
The distance between the bases are always the same. The shape of the diamond is always identical. Yet it is the architecture, the layout, the astute appearance that makes the ballpark, the perfect setting to witness our great game.
That is why they are our castles, or in some cases, cathedrals. Not only are no two ballparks alike, it is where the people gather to worship and watch kings, princes and warriors. The kings are the veterans who rule the field, the princes are the rookies making their way in to the big leagues, the warriors are the hard-nosed guys who never let you down.
It won't be long till the gates of the ballparks are unlocked and the castles are re-opened. What's inside is nothing new. The concourses are decorated with concession stands and merchandise sales. The grass is green and glistens in the sun. The views from every angle are spectacular. But no matter how many times the gates lock and unlock, how many seasons come and go, how often the team finishes in first or last place; the ballpark is a very place. It is where youth, innocence and hope never die.