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Sep '08 29

Back in the USA – a Baseball-Blog by John Miller

John Miller, head coach of the Brussels Kangaroos and a reporter for a major American newspaper, is chronicling his team’s 2008 season in a column that will appear every Monday on mister-baseball.com. It is the first of several Mister-Baseball Blogs this year.

The Kangaroos are done, and I’ve escaped for a quick solo trip to visit family and friends in Maryland.

Ever since I was a kid, baseball has been a cord to America and her life, and on every trip it starts with the descent over the cut-out fields and suburbs. My eyes gleefully weed out the diamonds, clustered like clover leaves.

The steady rain here this week can’t blur the joy of reunion with the land of childhood summers and four happy years of college.

My three grandparents, all born when Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson were strong, are still swift of mind and heart.

West of Washington, loving Uncle Earl still plays pickup hoops, guitar and video games. Down the road, I played an American Legion season in 1996. In 40 games in 40 days, I learned how American teens get so good. I caught against Mark Teixeira. His uncle Joe was my coach.

Uncle Steve picked me tickets to the Nats-Marlins game but a hurricane hitting the East Coast blew them, and the game, away.

I drove out to my alma mater. Mount Saint Mary’s new baseball stadium, which I gave 40 bucks for in 2005, is a jewel. I briefly recalled that trip, when I dribbled a single in our alumni game against a kid drafted in the 17th round by the Royals. Ivor Hodgson.

TV served up a treat today, as the Phils took the Nats 4-3. The conclusion was a stunning double play started by Jimmy Rollins on a shot up the middle. His dive-and-shuffle made Philadelphia the NL East’s champion. I can’t wait for the playoffs.

My season is over, but baseball still reigns in what recently deceased writer David Foster Wallace called my “skull-sized kingdom.”

A Belgian man called me last week. For his 11th birthday next month, he said, his son wanted a baseball game at our field in Brussels. His first. He’d show up with 10 friends, all good athletes, the dad said. I immediately agreed to coach for free. I wish I’d get that call every week.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, at a Sports Authority near Baltimore, down the road from a big blue McCain-Palin sign, I excitedly bought a new pair of Nike cleats.

This column will continue until the game’s sparks flare out for the year on both sides of the Atlantic. We’ll continue posting pictures of European fields, so send yours to oldworldpastime@gmail.com

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