It’s the beginning of February. Spring is still a distant dream. We know it’s coming one of these days, but that’s just conjectural knowledge. There aren’t many indications of it when we look out our windows. But for all that, today is a special day. Today, the pitchers and catchers of the Arizona Diamondbacks report to Scottsdale, Arizona. Most teams won’t require their pitchers and catchers to come down south and start practice until next week. But thanks to the diligence of the Diamondbacks’ organization, today marks the informal yet decisive beginning of the 2014 Major League Baseball season.
Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, this changes things. We may be stuck in the dead middle of winter, but today, the first hints of springtime have appeared. Rumors have begun to sprout up from a little Southwestern city. Men of a distinctly athletic build, with the long arms of a pitcher and the crooked knees of a catcher, have been seen to arrive just northeast of Phoenix and appeared to be headed towards the ballpark. Tomorrow, practices will begin on the outfield grass. The day after, the pitchers and catchers of the Los Angeles Dodgers will show up in Glendale, Arizona. Next Tuesday, position players will begin to arrive in cities throughout Arizona and Florida, and by the 23rd of the month, every organization will have its entire team on the field, doing stretches, taking batting practice, and playing catch under the Southern sun.
At this point, we will begin to find pictures of ballplayers on the last page of the sports section. Articles will begin to show up assessing the roster changes that took place during the offseason. And then, on the 27th of February, an actual box score will show up. Real Spring Training games will have begun. And from there, it is not long before the arrival of Opening Day.
But we’re not there yet. We’re just at that initial moment when we’ve begun to hear the rumors.
This nascent state is exactly what it’s like to be on earth in this present age.
It had been a sort of winter for human existence for quite some time. But then there was a bit of a stir in the capital city of one of the Roman provinces in the Middle East. Rumors began to appear that something of note had happened. Messengers began arriving throughout the Mediterranean with news that we had been visited by God in a way that far exceeded every past experience. In fact, it appeared that God had joined himself to us in some irrevocable way, and that although on one level things didn’t seem any different, on another level, we had somehow been taken up into the divine life. Pretty soon, people began talking differently, thinking differently, seeing differently. The divine life appeared to be alive in people. Whenever two or three people gathered in the name of one Jesus, the Son of God seemed to be really present. God even began to become present under the appearance of bread and wine that was offered in worship and shared among people.
All in all, people began to realize that something had broken the cold spell which had afflicted man ever since he could remember, and that we were heading towards some new life which, although it had already begun, had not yet been entirely fulfilled. As one of the first messengers of this Event put it, “We are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The age of shadow has passed, and we have entered into an age of sacramental image, where heaven has begun to erupt onto our earthly canvas, bursting in at the cracks, the Eternal and Immaterial into our dimensions of time and space. And it is only a matter of time before that canvas gives way and is entirely taken up into the Infinite.
We are still awaiting this ultimate dawn. But the daystreaks have begun to appear on the horizon. And when the Sun really does appear, Spring Training will be over. Opening Day will be here.
Image: Owen and LaVerne Brice, Montreal Royals Infielders Spring Training at Lake Wales, Florida 1938