Pitchers and catchers report next week

Baseball has a natural tendency to conjure up images of warm, lazy summer nights.

It is freezing outside.

All right, it’s not the same kind of cold we had a couple weeks ago, when it was freeze-your-eyelids-shut cold for an entire week, but it’s still cold. Cold enough to make me think things like, “If I ever meet an Arizona State graduate I’m going to punch him in the mouth.” This is a typical midwinter for Minnesota, and we’re officially into the part of it when everybody’s sick of it but it’s not going to be over for another two months.

It’s mid-February and spring break is still eons away, and midterms are here already, and Minnegasco is taking enough of my money to build Minnegascoland, a new gas-themed amusement park with a giant “Pay Us or We Freeze Your Butt Good” roller coaster.

The worst part of it is there’s zilch on the current sports radar to distract me. Once Super Bowl weekend comes and goes, we’re into the true dead zone of sports, which lasts until the NCAA basketball and hockey tournaments begin in mid-March. This means the sports airwaves, my normal diversion, are filled with stuff that bores me to tears, such as NBA games involving any team from the Eastern Conference.

And so I’m depressed, and I’m bored, and I’ve seen every possible rerun of “Insomniac with Dave Attell,” and I’m about ready to snap and lock myself in the basement until spring has darn well sprung and I can go outside without my nostril hairs immediately icing over.

At times like these, I like to think about baseball.

Baseball has a natural tendency to conjure up images of warm, lazy summer nights, even for those like me who grew up not with a natural park but with the plastic, antiseptic Metrodome. Summer is a sluggish, lackadaisical time. Summer reminiscing is filled for most people with daydreams of vacations, of slow, lazy weekends, of lots and lots of time. But there is a large class of us who find their minds, in the middle of a business lunch or a working day, drifting off to a summer Saturday afternoon at the ballpark.

Baseball is the most languid of all sports. There is no clock ruling over the proceedings, counting down until the end of the day. The game might last two hours; it might last five and go 14 innings. There is time between pitches, between innings, between pickoff attempts, during pitching changes and at every other time.

There’s time to discuss if trying to steal second with runners on first and third and one out is a good idea; which ex-players belong on the All-Time Worst Twins Team; and also such propositions as, “Does anyone in the Detroit Tigers’ starting rotation throw straight enough to sink someone at a carnival dunk tank?”

Baseball is the perfect embodiment of summer. There is drama and excitement, but there is also plenty of space for us to relax, unwind and reset ourselves from the icy darkness of Minnesota winter. I love football, and hockey, and basketball, and golf, and soccer and 15 other sports. But baseball is the game of fathers and sons, passed down from generation to generation.

My father passed down lots of sports-related things to me; we’ve got the same distrust of the Vikings (who always break our hearts) and most of the same favorite teams. Dad and I have never been to a football or a hockey game together. But we’ve attended at least one summer Twins game for about 17 years running. Baseball gives us time to reconnect as we grumble about Jacque Jones and Minnesota’s relief pitching. Summer gives us time. Baseball gives us time.

Maybe it’s not so cold out after all.

Jon Marthaler welcomes comments at [email protected]