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COMMUNITY VOICE

The opening of baseball season in spring represents new life, hope

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 10:01 am

Opening Day of the baseball season is a sign of life beginning anew.

Baseball has a rhythm. There is a chilly Opening Day at the start of April, after the anticipation and hope of spring training in the warm places of Florida and Arizona, which flows day-by-day into the summer heat, with a break for an all-star game. Then the season builds (there is no tension, so it doesn't build) to a conclusion in the October finale of the World Series. It's comfortable.

I love Notre Dame football, and it kindles a passion in me not present in baseball. But baseball is more relaxing. Maybe my Chicago White Sox won't win, again, but in the spring they still have hope.

Maybe Detroit Tigers stars Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander will get hurt. One never knows. Well, unless you are a Cubs fan.

For baseball fans, it is the experience. The pace is slower. If you lose one game, you don't lose your chance to win the national championship. No wonder attendance is up.

Furthermore, for all the football hype, here are a few key facts. Major League Baseball drew more than 74 million fans last year versus just more than 17 million for NFL football. I realize there are more games and that people are counted multiple times. Still, the fact is that far more people go to baseball games than football games.

College football, with far more teams, draws 48 million fans. Even combining the NCAA with the NFL, football attendance doesn't exceed Major League Baseball. Plus minor league baseball attendance last year topped 41 million fans.

I am not arguing about the fan power of football: While baseball on TV is more scattered and airs far more games, during its shorter season both college and pro football overwhelm even the conclusion of baseball. But baseball is strong again. It may not be the nation's pastime anymore, but it's not “past” time either, as some had claimed.

Our Fort Wayne TinCaps, playing in America's No. 1 minor league stadium and providing family entertainment at a reasonable cost, are a great example of why minor league baseball is flourishing. Inside the stadium, you could be in Camden Yards in Baltimore with the old-style stadium and an urban skyline.

The food is good, every seat has exceptional views, there are things for the kids to do, “thirsty Thursdays” draw huge crowds and great fireworks displays add to the summer weekend fun.

It is single-A baseball, but some of the players you can watch rise. Jake Peavy and Torii Hunter have done well, and Jed Gyorko looks to start this year for the Padres after just recently playing here.

Hope springs anew on Opening Day not just for the young players of the TinCaps, but for all of us. Life is about facing each new dawn with hope, not dwelling on the murders in Fort Wayne or the nasty gridlock in Washington. Let's play ball!

Mark Souder is a former 3rd District Congressional representative.