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Bubble Gum

They need, of course, their baseball bats, their sweatshirts, and their shoes (the ones with spikes along the soles), and it will not be news to anyone that players need their uniforms and socks, and video for taping swings, and shampoo for their locks.

With all of this and much, much more, the trucks were loaded down, as they left northern cities, each for some more temperate town where baseball can be practiced free of sleet and ice and snow.

This happens every February, everywhere you go, but I had never noticed in the loading of the vans the placement in among the crates, the duffle bags, the cans of many cardboard boxes labeled "bubble gum."

It's true. It isn't only jock straps or some super secret brew to muscle up the little guys so they can whack the ball a hundred feet beyond the high and distant outfield wall - it's bubble gum.

The trucks are full of boxes of the stuff, and in these days when rooting for a baseball team is tough these days of ticket prices higher than they've ever been, and of the Yankees owning everybody, so they'll win again.

Or if they don't, they almost will. These days when, gee, the owners claim they're broke or that they very soon will be, hey, I can root for bubble gum and guys who like to chew it, as I can root for spring, blue sky, and sun to shine on through it. 'cause bubble gum's a link to simpler times, and simpler games, a time of 16 teams, when I knew all the players' names. A time before I knew how vacant some of them can be, a time when I would dream the next great hitter would be me.

And so hurrah for February, and for distant places, where catchers have begun to warm up the aspiring aces. Hooray, as well, for living dreams and hope that spring will come, and for the trucks now headed south - the ones with bubble gum.

This program aired on February 14, 2003. The audio for this program is not available.

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