When we met in nineteen thirty-eight, it was November
When I said that I would be his mate, it was December
I reasoned he would be the greatest husband that a girl had ever found
That’s what I reasoned
That’s what I reasoned
Then April rolled around…
April has rolled around once again, and with it comes a tradition that has been part of the background of American life that stretches even farther back than 1938- it began almost the very day in 1845 when the Knickerbocker Club of New York City took on the New York Nine in the first organized game of “base ball” ever played. Since that day, as Meg laments in Damn Yankees, baseball has been a part of American life for “six months out of every year.”
In modern life, baseball often takes a back seat to other sports. It moves slower than most sports, scoring is more rare, and there is very little physical contact between players. The game brought its pace and schedule with it from its 19th century roots. Born in New York, where April was the first possible time the weather would allow an outdoor game to be played, baseball offers something special for Pagans that no other sport can: it follows the Wheel of the Year almost perfectly.
Just as the light is beginning to return to the world in February, pitchers report to practice. Slowly over the next month, players begin to gather and the team begins to take shape. In March, the clubhouse is filled with many more hopeful players than the final team will be able to accommodate. In Spring Training, each player looks to show his stuff and the team truly begins to take shape. By late March, a team has been born.
Then comes the magical month of April. The season begins full of potential for everyone. Every team is in first place. Every team has a chance. The weather is still cold, but fans and players are full of optimism, hoping that “maybe this year” will bring home a coveted championship. Even notoriously unsuccessful teams like the poor, beleaguered Chicago Cubs have hopes and dreams. Whatever disappointments linger from the previous year disappear in April and the baseball world looks toward the future.
In May, the season is in full swing. Even the worst teams still have energetic fans. The weather is nicer and, with the growing sun, the energy of each game begins to build. Players have shaken off their winter rust and their talents are displayed at full strength. The energy of the season continues to build as the weather heats up. The first half of the season is about planting your team’s seeds, establishing your position in the standings, and setting your intentions for the fall.
As summer begins, teams have established themselves. We start to know which teams will bear fruit. Fans relax and begin to enjoy long, lazy days. Families spend the day at the ballpark enjoying hot dogs, peanuts (and Cracker Jack, of course) while watching their favorite teams take the field under the summer sun.
Just when it seems like everything is on summer cruise control, the energy peaks at that All-Star Game. Positioned exactly halfway through the season, and only a few weeks after Midsummer, the All-Star Game is an all out celebration of the game where the skills of the very best players are on full display. The host city holds a week-long convention for fans. The night before the game, the sport’s biggest sluggers slam a parade of balls out of the park in the annual Home Run Derby. Smiles are shared all around during the game as even rival players greet each other in an atmosphere of fun and friendship.
But then everything changes. After their three-day rest, teams get down to serious business. As the days begin to darken toward harvest season, every team starts to take stock of its crop. The trade deadline is Lammas – July 31 at midnight. A rushed feeling sets in as teams who believe they have a chance look to acquire the perfect players while less successful teams seek to dump expensive players in an attempt to cut their financial losses before it is too late.
The tools prepared and the field ripe, harvesting begins on August 1. Races heat up. Successful teams solidify their position. Other teams fight to achieve their goals, reaping whatever they can from what they have sown. In September, the harvest takes on a fever pitch. Time is running out and the value of each game increases as the sun sinks toward equinox and eventually sets on the regular season. At this point, the dross has been removed and the very best of the league has been harvested for the playoffs.
A second season with a more dramatic harvest occurs in October. As darkness sets in, teams fight to stay alive in the playoffs. One by one, they drop off until eventually – sometime near Samhain – someone wins the World Series when the final team is vanquished and the season dies for good.
But baseball is a cycle. The game is even played in a circle. Things don’t end in October. In November, a time of rest begins for players. It’s a time to rejuvenate their bodies after a grueling 162-game season, but it’s also a time where the action moves inward, behind the scenes. The dark time of the year – and of the baseball cycle – is an active time for team executives as they look to make trades, hire new players, sell new advertising, and sign new TV contracts.
During the winter, the front office does what it can to get its financial ducks in a row, often exchanging players like gifts sometime around Yule. They look for holes that need to be filled and negotiate the best deals to fill their needs. In no small way, the off-season is just as important as the regular season. It’s less glamorous, but if the executives make the right decisions they can acquire exciting new players or powerful veterans, giving hope to fans for a successful season to come.
If well spent, off-season trades can give fans hope, justifying the age-old mantra of baseball, one that echoes the cyclical nature of America’s Pastime as April inevitably rolls around again and hopes spring up again: “Maybe next year.”