There's something special about baseball.
I have a distinct memory of the first baseball game I ever attended. It was sometime during the 1995 or 1996 season, and I tagged along with my older siblings and my dad to a Portland Rockies game at Civic Stadium, which is now Providence Park.
I can't remember the opponent or the score, but I remember the sun and the hard seats. I remember a fly ball sailing into the stands near us, and I remember a splinter-filled wooden bat I got at the game with the Portland Rockies insignia printed on it in silver lettering.
The Rockies are long gone, moved to Tri-Cities, Wash., when the Beavers returned to Portland in 2000, but that memory has always stuck with me. I started playing baseball on my own a few years later, though it never amounted to much. My mom tells me from time to time about how I only swung at a handful of pitches all year long in my first season, preferring to simply stand at the plate until I was walked or struck out by the coach who tossed underhand pitches to us eight-year-old hopefuls.
I played on a South Clackamas squad the next year, donning a striped uniform and hat branded with a large SC,' which became a deep source of pride. The first year we just had t-shirts, now we were a real baseball team.
The uniforms, though, were about the best part of that year. While I didn't swing at anything in my first season, I swung at everything in my second season and I likely lost interest in the game because it wasn't any fun when I couldn't get on base. That and, as my dad jokingly remembered, there weren't any dirt hills in the outfield to play in when I moved up from the eight-year-ball league.
Once the season ended, baseball was out of sight, out of mind for me. Soccer started the next fall, and I was consumed with other things in the interim – music, adventures, swimming and dirt.
Looking back, I can't help but wonder why the hunger to stick with baseball fizzled out. Other than listening to Portland Trailblazer games on the radio now and then, we weren't a sports-focused family. I never went to another Rockies or Beavers game, instead avidly following the Blazers and now the Timbers when I got a little older.
For many years, I've simply thought that baseball wasn't my cup of tea. Other sports like soccer and basketball have been captivating; maybe I'm just made that way.
The majesty of that first game in Portland, though, makes me think otherwise. I don't have many memories as a four-year-old, the experience with baseball being one of them. I can't tell you the last time (if ever) that I've watched a baseball game on television, and I can say with certainty that I've never listened to one on the radio. It's something that you have to experience in person to fall in love with the sport.
I still love this game. The many times I asked everyone for a few minutes of playing catch in the yard and the memories of batting practice' with apples from the old tree next to the house have me convinced of that. I even remember begging to leave my siblings' track meets to watch the baseball game over the fence next door.
What to do with that, though? I'm not about to step into the local pub and desperately ask the bartender to switch to the A's game. I won't shift my schedule around so I can catch the Mariners on the radio. That kind of thing still doesn't capture me.
For now, I'll add my name to the list of people who'd like to see Major League Baseball in Portland. There's plenty of talk about putting a stadium in the Rose Quarter in place of the old Veterans Memorial Coliseum, or building something in Lents Park in southeast Portland. Sounds great. Let's do it.
I'll even look into visiting the Hops in Hillsboro when their season starts in June, just for the chance of rediscovering the magic I found as a youngster.
Heck, seven bucks isn't bad for a little nostalgia.