THIS SURE can be a depressing time of year. Football is over for all but the fans of Arizona and Pittsburgh. And if you’re not into basketball, which I’m not, the baseball season still seems a long way off.
I’ve already had enough of shoveling the snow from my drive and I’m still mad at myself for locking in the price of my heating oil at more than $3 a gallon.
I can’t say I’m too excited either about the World Baseball Classic, a competition featuring such fearsome ball-playing nations as Australia, Italy and the Netherlands.
But one piece of news did cheer me up yesterday, namely that Bernie Williams is returning to the diamond to represent his country of birth, Puerto Rico.
We can’t really say he’s coming out of retirement because Bernie, now 40, never actually retired. His contract with the New York Yankees expired at the end of the 2006 season and he declined an invitation to attend spring training in 2007 as a non-roster invitee.
Yankees great makes Classic return
Since then, Bernie – a classically trained guitarist – has been developing a musical career. He played on stage with Bruce Springsteen last November and is due to release his second CD, entitled Moving Forward, in April.
Still bitter about the way his split with the Yanks was handled, Bernie didn’t return to the Stadium until the official closing ceremony on September 21 last year. But when he finally did, what a reception he received from the fans.
Now, the good news is that he’s back in training for the World Baseball Classic, which takes place in March with the semi-finals and final being staged at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, from the 21st to the 23rd.
Bernie has missed baseball and baseball has missed Bernie. Few players have enjoyed such a rapport with the paying public. He was/is one of the gentle giants of the game.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was an eight-year-old. I miss that competitive edge that all athletes have,” he says.
If Puerto Rico should qualify and Bernie shows he can still hit a line drive or two, what chance Dodgers manager Joe Torre signing him up for the season? In truth, probably little, but in these cold winter months, we can but dream.