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Fixing the date for the Baseball Solstice

Now is the winter of our discontent, baseball fans. The World Series ended on Oct. 28, and nearly two months later I’m really starting to miss the game.

Musing on this long dormant period for the national pastime, I’ve concluded that like our pagan ancestors, we must mark the passage of the seasons. And that means fixing what I’ll call the “baseball solstice,” the mid-point between the end of one season and the beginning of another.

The end of the World Series seems an overwhelmingly logical point to mark the end of a season.

But what constitutes the beginning of a new season? “Opening Day” used to mean the oldest continuously operating professional franchise, the Reds, taking the field in Cincinnati. But Major League Baseball has trampled tradition with early openers in Japan and kooky staggered schedules.

The reporting date in Arizona and Florida for pitchers and catchers is inadequate — there are no inning-by-inning broadcasts on the radio to record what happens, no box scores to enter anything into history.

That leads to one conclusion: The new season commences with the first games of Spring Training, when the teams take the field and the umpire cries “Play ball!” Every rookie has the potential to make the team, every veteran a chance to perform even better than the year before.

In 2012, the first games will be on March 2.

Between the last out of the 2011 World Series and those first Cactus and Grapefruit league ballgames, 134 125 days — better than one-third of a calendar year — will have passed since the Rangers’ David Murphy flied out to Allen Craig of the Cardinals.

So the mid-point, the baseball solstice, will be 67 62.5 days later, Dec. 30, 2011.

It’s a fitting date. In much of the United States, that’s the dead of winter with snow blanketing many a ballfield.

I’ll do something to mark the occasion. I could bay at the moon like some ancient Druid at Stonehenge and try to conjure a power hitter for the San Francisco Giants. Or maybe I’ll just look toward Progressive Field in Cleveland, beseeching the baseball gods to make 2012 the year the Indians win it all.

Centuries from now, our descendants may chance upon the ruins of Wrigley and contemplate the meaning and magic that dwelt there in ages past. With curiosity they may look upon the remains of home plate at Fenway Park or ponder what’s left of the fountains at Kauffman Stadium.

We owe it to our descendants to mark the Baseball Solstice in ceremonies of our own devising. So join me Jan. 4 Dec. 30 at sunrise. I will be in Pittsburgh, summoning my father’s spirit to bring the Pirates some luck.

Addendum: My headline on “Fixing” the date of the Baseball Solstice turned out to be a bit of irony. I miscounted the days and got the mid-point wrong. As Paul notes below, the correct date is Dec. 30, not Jan. 4. It’s still a day to celebrate.

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