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April 7, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

Michael Kurtianyk

Isn’t it crazy how each spring, when the weather turns warmer and the sun comes out, our spirits rise along with the blossoms? We survived another winter – its cold spells, its dreariness, the ever-present winds. We built snowmen, slid down hills, stayed home from school, took liberal leave from work, and cozied up next to our fires.


Now, we have upon us more frequent sunny days, and an increase in temperatures. Our thoughts turn outside now: we clip; we brush; we mulch; we trim; we cut; we scrape; and we plant. We do what we do outside because we can go outside. We have an inherent need and desire to take in the fresh air, and beautify that which we own.


My thoughts go out to two outdoor activities I love, but don’t get enough opportunities to participate in: golf and baseball. Like many, I love the competitiveness of what are ultimately one-on-one sports. Golf forces a participant to take in many factors: wind speed, wind direction, length to tee, shape of fairway, and knowing where the bunkers and roughs are. All this before the first tee shot!


At the professional level, we will see the annual Masters Tournament in Augusta, GA, this weekend. Will Tiger Woods win his fifth green jacket, putting him one behind Jack “The Golden Bear” Nicklaus? Will Phil Mickelson win his third? Can Trevor Immelman repeat as champion? Will I see any of the tournament because it falls during Easter weekend?


My favorite story having to do with golf is this answer to the question: “Why are there 18 holes in golf?” One legend claims that the number 18 originated as a suggestion from one of the old-timers at Scotland’s legendary St. Andrews Golf Course, who noted that it took exactly 18 shots to finish a fifth of scotch – a shot per hole. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know, but it’s a great story nevertheless.


Baseball is also a one-on-one sport, when you consider the ultimate test of batter versus pitcher. The batter must know the pitcher’s best pitches, location of the pitch, and what would likely be thrown in the situation in which they meet: first pitch of the game or bases loaded with two out in the ninth. There’s something about the hitter/batter matchup that gets the competitive juices flowing.


This year sees not one, but two new baseball stadiums in New York: CITI Field for the Mets, and the new Yankee Stadium for the Yankees. With their annually large payrolls, it’ll be interesting to see if either or both teams make it to the World Series in October. I always have hope for the Baltimore Orioles – they do fine until the All-Star Break in July, and then seem to collapse. I end up rooting for the Orioles until about August 1 and then follow the Yankees.


My hope is that our local team, the Frederick Keys, continues to be a true Class A organization: one wherein the players develop their talents for their parent club, while simultaneously offering a welcome diversion for its fans. I’m curious to see how well the Keys do this year, in light of these economic times, which began after last season ended.


What will I be doing this spring? My thoughts turn, as they always do, to my daughters. I am helping to coach their soccer team (Middletown, Under 8, coed). It’s been great seeing them progress through the years, and playing with their friends. Our team will do well. I think we’re two players short of having an undefeated season: Mia Hamm and Landon Donovan.


In all seriousness, we have great reason to be optimistic, even in these troubling times. Nationally, we are all working together to help others – job losses cause families to come closer together. Churches and religious groups come together to help fellow members.


Sometimes we look to lighten our loads; other times, we ask for broader shoulders. I see us as a nation asking for broader shoulders this spring, asking what else we can do to help others. This is my cause for optimism.


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