With many apologies to Geoffrey Chaucer
When April’s gentle rains have pierced the frost
And warmed the piles of snow into lukewarm slush;
When the sun begins to timidly turn the earth
Soft again so that growing things begin their rebirth
(And with it the pricking of every Midwestern heart),
The yearly pilgrimage then some folks desire to start
Towards dormant Fields and Stadiums where
Baseball and spring both fill the gentle air.
A particular shrine renowned through the Land
Of Lake and Crooked River do its folks through streets and highways wend:
To seek their summer heroes is their will,
The ones who may at last salve their ills.
Now in that season it befell one day
At the suburban Motel where I lay,
As I was all prepared for driving out
To Cleveland with a heart devout,
There had come into that place at night
Some twenty-five (or twenty-six if CBA is signed)
Sundry men, baseball players all
Who were staying, downtown being their next port of call.
Tomorrow they would ride for the Field and begin
The game that would start their season.
The rooms were comfortable and spacious,
But humble enough for them to be anonymous,
So for one night I sat among them, talking openly about
The years and games of old, of hits and outs.
I spoke with each about their coming journey
Of hopes of once again playing the October tourney,
But also hints of other things completely unknown
To me, a man who while very much grown
Still could not fathom how much fallow time
Was allotted them, a strange paradigm
Of stress then nothingness
Of very much and then much less
That these athletes were expected to endure.
And so, my interest being piqued, and having imbibed
Enough spirits to speak my mind,
I asked the athletic company of how they overcame
The gulf between game and game.
The leader of the club smiled and, taking me aside
Told me of the secret that kept morale so high,
“We have a running contest in which tales are told
By each player both young and old.
And whoever tells the most interesting tale each day
Gets the first crack at dinner after the game.
Each time the contest conditions changes just a bit;
One day it might be originality, the next it might be wit.
But whatever the rules might be the outcome is the same:
Laughs and smiles, tears and much acclaim.”
I wished aloud that I could hear this for myself one time
To hear the players inventing prose and rhyme.
But I thanked him for his honesty, and then the hour being late,
Headed for my room, for next morn’s meeting was at eight.
While I slept, dark clouds crept over our abode
As it stole to the north over all the main roads
So that by morning the sky was gray – no – black.
It was a still and somber day as I drove to my 8 o’clock.
Then wind began to blow, and curses! Rain started to fall
Deluging the Field with puddles and casting a pall
Over the planned festivities.
Because the crowd was to be great, the ballpark activities
Were postponed until the morrow. This I learned
As I returned from my early sojourn,
My business being completed for the day.
I arrived to a room full of players whose joy had gone astray,
Their faces downcast, having to wait for their anticipated debut
Another 24 hours stuck in this comfortable but confining venue.
The leader of the group, remembering what I had said last night,
Suddenly raised his voice above the somber din
“Fellows, I know the skies won’t let our season begin
On time, and we’ll have to wait just a bit more,
And let’s use this time to not to watch TV and be bored
But tell some tales and raise our spirits so that tomorrow
When we take the field it will be with a joyous glow.
Today’s contest will be judged by this guy here,
(You remember him from last night’s beers),
And whoever tells the most astounding and amusing tale
Will have tonight’s dinner paid for by us all.
If this plan appeals to all of you, speak now
For if it does, let’s begin in one hour!”
To this there was unanimous assent, with none heartier than me,
For what I wished last night to hear one day was now to be.