You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball; and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. - Jim Bouton

Anyone who enjoys baseball knows about "A-Rod" (Alex Rodriguez). We were all amazed at his original $252 million 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers. A few felt he was worth it since he is viewed by many as perhaps the best all-around Major League baseball player today. I have a hard time understanding how any athlete could be worth that much money.

With a week to go before the start of the Spring Season, A-Rod was traded to the New York Yankees where he will play third base, not his usual position at shortstop. Derek Jeter will remain there.

Since I was raised in southeastern Pennsylvania, the National League Phillies have always been my league and team. Even when we lived in Minnesota and I cheered for the Twins, I kept one eye on my old team in Philadelphia. Childhood heroes are hard to shake.

As a young boy I remember listening in the '50s and '60s to Phillies games on the radio. Many of my chores on the farm were serenaded by the announcers of those Phillies baseball ghosts of the past.

About once a summer we would drive to Connie Mack Stadium to watch Robin Roberts, Jim "Perfect Game" Bunning, Richie Ashburn, Wes Covington, Richie Allen and a host of those old heroes in action. In person they never appeared quite as large as they did when we heard them described on the radio.

Those images helped me as I walked on the baseball and softball diamonds when I was in high school. As a ground ball came to me at shortstop or third base and I fired it to first, my Phillies role models were never far from my mind. Even the swing of my baseball bat imitated those now long-retired stars. How I would imitate those announcers, "There's a long fly ball, going to deep left center field. He's back...back...back..."

I suppose it was during that time when I developed a dislike for the Yankees. Nothing too serious. You know, just some healthy eastern seaboard rivalry for the Phillies and against the Yankees. They seemed to win everything. Even average players could join them and they played better when they put on that pin-stripe uniform. And, who wouldn't cheer for the underdogs. I know I did and I guess I still do.

Back to A-Rod. What amazed me about that deal was why there was an opening at third base on the Yankee's team. Their third baseman was the hero, Aaron Boone. At least he was the hero last fall in the 11th inning of the seventh game of the American League Championship Series. In that game he slammed a home run, ending the Boston Red Sox' season which prevented them from going on to the World Series.

The sad news is that Aaron Boone violated his "no basketball clause" in his contract. On Jan. 16, 2004, he blew out his knee playing a game of pick-up basketball. This major league hero may have ended his professional career while violating a simple clause in his contract. What huge effects come from such a seemingly small wrong decision.

Baseball fever. A new season is upon us. Perhaps this year the Phillies will go all the way. The crack of the bat. The smell of the glove. The feel of a baseball. The sight of a grass-filled, well-manicured, white-lined baseball diamond. Clean uniforms. Optimistic fans. Gifted athletes. Trained umpires. The National Anthem. Let's play ball.

Think about it.

Editor's note: Dr. Meyer is president of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville. Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu.

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