It's about the feel of the damn thing. Writers, poets, and artists have spent over a century plumbing baseball for inspiration. Colors, smells, sounds, memories, birth, death, renewal; these are universal themes we attach to baseball, sometimes out of authentic attempts to understand the game and ourselves a bit better, other times to simply try and get as many humans to look at our creations as possible.
We have built a world around the world around sports, and like many things in this big, scary world it gets easy to only focus on motion, regardless of direction, starting point, or destination. But the truth, the very simple truth is that it's as simple as picking up something stick-like, swinging it very hard at an object thrown toward you, and trying to hit it absolutely as far as you possibly can.
I don't claim to understand what about our psyche connects so purely to the idea of solid contact. There are smarter and better writers that can trace the course of human history to explain that to you. What I do know is that connection exists, and that it is the Big Bang from which the entire universe of baseball as industry, profession, hobby, and artistic endeavor leaps outward from.
As the 90's fade into sepia tones in our mind, and the heat of daily debates over performance enhancers cools, most of us in our honest moments can admit that the offensive exploits of the era were thrilling to watch. Every generation needs its myths, and being able to tell the tales of Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Griffey, et al. provides us a point in time to reference to the next generation, which is already rapidly leaving those of us that remember that past behind.
In the aftermath of the Hall of Fame voting, guilt-purging, moralizing, and hand-wringing leftover from those days it can feel like the Steroid Era was a complicated one. I would argue rather it was a time of baseball at its most simple. There is no defense for a home run, no BABIP, no market inefficiency. There is simply the swing, the contact, and runs. Victory in black and white in a game of gray. The game's greatest hitters discovered a way to minimize a random game's randomness like no other time in history, and they exploited it fully. And we loved every second of it.
We're a month from when the beginning begins to have its beginning. The days are ever so slightly longer, and the exhaustion from the holidays and football are over. Go home. Grab something that passes for a bat. Swing it at rolled up socks, a nerf ball, an oversized fluffy dice car ornament, anything. Swing hard, and feel the contact. Feel it in your hands, how it creeps up your neck, and trickles down to your toes. That, more than anything else, is baseball. And it is coming.