There's this guy: We call him Chicago. Chicago says, "It don't matter who's playing. It's baseball."
Around 30 percent of Americans live in Major League cities, and this season, like every other baseball season, will be dominated more by demographics than anything else.
ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports South, Mike and Mike, Dan Patrick and the rest will be endlessly talking about Major League Baseball.
But for many of us here in the back of the beyond, these stories, comments and analyses take place where glams and celebs and opening nights dominate.
It's in Charleston, in Billings, Mont., in Boise, Idaho, in Albuquerque, N.M., and other bus and train stops throughout the nation where the American pastime really exists.
If my count is correct, there are 30 Major League Baseball teams that play almost daily from April to October. However, scattered throughout the wide expanse of the Republic, on any given night from April through September, there are 160 Minor League teams playing. I'm not counting those teams that play outside of the borders and I'm not counting the "after season" leagues.
No, on a typical night in the deep summer, 80 Minor League ballparks are open and baseball is being played, compared to 15 in the Major Leagues. Baseball truly is America's pastime.
Once, in our adult Sunday school class, the teacher asked, "What do you think heaven is like?"
Now, I'm finding it tough enough acting in a way that will get me into heaven, but if I had to imagine what heaven is like, it's a Sunday afternoon game at The Joe with the RiverDogs playing somebody, and the game goes on forever.
I'm no baseball expert, but my friends and I are the most important part of any sport's equation: We're fans. That includes my buddy Bill (who sings a wicked national anthem), Bobbi, Arla and Neal, Barbara and Al, and others.
During the regular season, we watch the beloved RiverDogs play Class A baseball against such daunting foes as the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Savannah Sand Gnats, the Hickory Crawdads and the infamous Greenville Drive. They are all part of the South Atlantic League that has been in existence here in the South for more than 50 years.
As I prepare for this season, I can only remember the "feel" of last season. It is a summer night here in the Lowcountry. The humidity is so high nothing dries; it's the time of year when the trees and bushes and grasses are so green they hurt your eyes; the Spanish moss down River Road on Johns Island hangs almost to the roadway.
It is hot, sticky, muggy and, as usual, tonight we are seated in section 106, three rows from the RiverDog dugout, doing what you're supposed to do while watching a baseball game: encouraging the players and coaches, and yelling for them while eating nachos smothered in Velveeta and jalapenos and washing it all down with the beverage that made Milwaukee famous.
Sweat is dripping down inside our shirts and the rest of our clothes are sticking to us. We settle in, gathered here tonight, brothers and sisters, as we are many nights from April to September for the spiritual renewal of watching and rooting for the RiverDogs.
We call ourselves what we are: The Geriatrics.
It's fun. It's crazy. We love it. We're fans. It don't matter. It's baseball.
Bob Bell is a retired teacher living on James Island, 15 minutes from The Joe.
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