We lose sight of it sometimes as we strain to look over the outer fences, but home is the heart of baseball. When the Reds moved out of Crosely Field and into Riverfront Stadium, despite the haste to enter into the shiny new stadium, the team didn’t merely move Tony Perez’s shoes from one locker room to another. There was a ceremony, and a great whirring helicopter, and home plate was ritually moved from one residence to the other.
There’s precious little of this when mere mortals change addresses. Doors barge open, furniture is shoved inside, and everyone wanders around looking for the garage door opener, which is in the microwave, which is on top of the couch.
This is all part of the depersonalization inherent in the moving process; you don’t know where any of your stuff is, so your life is chaos. You can’t get anything done. A shower involves a 20-minute rummage through storage containers. Throwing together a casserole would involve a major architectural expedition and narration from a British actor. And all this is happening in your home.
Home in baseball is a blank spot, for all its importance, and the owner of it changes nine times a game. The verging Hall of Famer shares it with the rookie who will never visit here again after this at-bat. The vacant space leaves room for the authorship of history, whether in Game 7 of the World Series or a sparsely attended August afternoon grind. The umpire brushes away the evidence of the past, and we move on.
As Josh the Pilot and I prepare our house for market, we eliminate all signs of ourselves there, box by box; the scuff marks and holes in the wall and any sign of building or tearing down are wiped out. It is total self-annihilation, and it’s exhausting. This week I fell asleep on the space on the carpet where the couch once rested, my head cushioned by what was left of the bubble wrap.
The point of this is so that potential buyers can see themselves living there. The point is no longer a middle-age writer and her imported husband. We’re out; you’re up.
In the same way, when we first pushed open the door to tour our apartment, there was little sign of the previous tenant. What I have learned is that she owned a white dish towel which she rarely used, given its abandoned location deep on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet and that she had dark hair. (I know, too, that she did a crap job of move-out cleaning.) Still, she’s out; we’re up.
Our realtor suggested that we pour bleach down various drains to produce the impression that the place has been thoroughly cleaned. Instead, it smells like somebody who watches “Dateline” is doing a bang-up job of cleaning up a crime scene. That’s fitting; our DNA has been washed away from the last place we nested.
The embedded genetic code of the nearest sports team is a social shortcut to hometowns, which is why when I went to see Brooks and Dunn in college, they appeared on stage wearing Notre Dame jerseys and cowboy hats, but it’s dangerously easy to get this sort of thing wrong, and then people make fun of you on the internet. That is why, as I sat in a restaurant this week (the measuring cups are… somewhere), and glanced up at coverage of the Home Run Derby, the camera was fixing on crowd members wearing a cacophony of jerseys. You’ve left home. You need to let everyone else know about it.
So the point of baseball isn’t just, as George Carlin pointed out, to go home and be safe. It’s the perilous, weaving, fantastic lifelong journey we remember.