The first thing I learned about baseball is this: If you raise your hand a man will bring you food. I learned this at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, and in my first year as a fan I spent most of the game facing the wrong way. Raise my hand, get ice cream, raise my hand, get popcorn, raise my hand, get peanuts. It was 1958.
Two years later I understood it was a game. On summer afternoons I’d beg my brothers to take me with them to the ballpark. I was falling in love with baseball.
John Gregory Dunne wrote that, “Baseball is the couch on which we examine our psyches”. George Will said, “Baseball is the universe”. And catcher Wes Westrum said, “Baseball is like church, many attend but few understand.”
We have these sayings and many more because baseball is one of the greatest sources of metaphor in American life. Maybe only 12-step recovery has more sayings and code words than America’s Game. And in many the heart of baseball is like the heart of recovery.
Baseball is one area of our lives where we surrender the clock to the event. But there is something else in this game that asserts the spiritual: In baseball we begin and end at home. The goal is to get home and to be safe. That’s also the goal for us in recovery. We drank because we thought we’d be safer socially or we’d be more comfortable. Then alcohol turned on us and we were out in left field feeling unsafe and we feared we’d never ever get home again. Then each of us experienced the miracle of recovery. Something happened. We found our way to a meeting. Many people say that when they came to their first meeting they knew they were home.
This is the kind of deep spirituality I write about in “Out of the Woods”.
In the new book I write about finding your true faith community and finding our way home. We crave this in baseball. We experience it in recovery. We are keeping the faith.