An enduring symbol of hope

Spring is just around the corner. I have not seen a robin flying around Columbus, nor have I noticed any plants blooming. Rather, I know that winter is coming to an end because pitchers and catchers have reported for baseball’s spring training.

This week, position players join them in Florida and Arizona for the annual ritual that precedes the Major League Baseball season. And in little more than a month, baseball will start for our local high school teams.

Unraveling baseball’s early history such as the origins of spring training can be a difficult task.

After all, baseball’s early years are replete with myths and legends. Nineteenth-century baseball teams traveled south to gain an advantage over their regular season opponents by practicing in the warm weather. Playing games in the South also brought baseball to new audiences.

In 1869, the New York Mutuals traveled south to play a New Orleans team, the Pelicans. The following year, the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) and the Cincinnati Red Stockings played each other in the “Crescent City.” In 1886, the White Stockings started a lasting trend when they prepared for their season in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

It is a great time of year for baseball fans all over the country. At this point, all of our beloved teams could still win the World Series. The team closest to my heart is the Minnesota Twins. How can you root against a small-market team from the Midwest? At this point, we have not been mathematically eliminated.

This also might be the year for the Cubs. Curses, bad luck, miserable trades and terrible play would fade from memory if our team wins. This year the Cincinnati Reds could climb out of the cellar and be a contender. Anything is possible.

Our teams have gained and lost free agents. They have fired and hired managers. A fading veteran might once more find their swing. We are counting on some young talent from the farm team or a phenom from Korea to be the next All-Star.

If you own a fantasy team, your chance at fortune and glory is right around the corner. Fantasy owners are buying insider magazines, reading every online forum about sleeper picks and planning their draft strategies. This might be the year. Anything is possible.

But the arrival of spring training is about much more than just the national pastime. It reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit. Winter is fading, and we will soon shake off its cold, icy grip. We will go outside, bask in the sun and play like children.

Also, spring training is a chance to start over. We can wipe the slate clean. It is a time to forget about the errors of previous seasons. It is an opportunity to make the team and dream about winning.

Spring training confirms Alexander Pope’s ideas in “An Essay on Man.” Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blessed.”

Finally, spring training is a symbol of the power of hope. We hope for the future despite terrible losses in the past. We hope for the future even if it isn’t realistic or rational. Even if the calendar doesn’t say so, spring is here. Anything is possible.

Aaron Miller is one of The Republic’s community columnists and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. He has a doctorate in history and is an associate professor of history at Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus. Send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.