(please don’t) Take me out to the ballgame. lindseywb on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever watched a televised baseball game held at an outdoor stadium and marveled at the intricate patterns on the field? Maybe that’s just how my mind works during an endless game of America’s favorite pastime. At some point (probably around the 10th inning during a game with “bonus panels”) I was even curious enough to investigate matters more closely. My search turned up books, websites, and trade articles, dedicated to specialized equipment and benders bars, and complicated explanations about refracted light and optimized viewing points. Now that’s interesting.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m not a baseball buff. I am a gardener standing alone in a family of die-hard fans. “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” is a hymn in our family —both the soundtrack of the Father/Daughter Dance at the wedding of our first born, and now a lullaby sung to her twins. My beloveds are true fans.

I am a fan of fans.

Summer flowers blooming in a Pacific Northwest garden

My field of dreams.

Again and again, and again, again.

I have a theory about baseball and gardening. There is a sameness to both practices — Pitch, hit, run… Plant, tend, harvest… 

Both baseball and gardening are constants around our house—cause and effect or coincidence that the two seasons overlap almost seamlessly. My husband’s “hobby job” at the ballpark where he hosts guests in seats right behind home plate, regularly puts him among his people. I am a garden writer. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the place where these two seemingly disparate arts touch.

Years ago, I heard a radio interview with someone comparing the exquisite redundancy of sportswriters and garden writers — both are telling the same story over and over, year in and year out.

I’m truly sorry that I don’t remember the person being interviewed who came up with this insight—I was driving. Sometimes I pull over and scribble a note on a scrap of paper, but in this instance, I was making a tricky merge onto the freeway. The fact that I remember exactly where I was when I heard this truth, is a measure of its import in my life. Ever since that day, whenever I write about gardens I try to channel Dave Niehaus, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most beloved baseball announcers.

Mr. Niehaus called baseball with genuine passion. He loved the game and its followers in equal measure. Completely understandable—the beauty and promise of each growing season sets me and my gardening friends buzzing. I may consider a game that drags on for  3+ hours less than scintillating, but those around me likely feel the same way listening to me rant about the weather and rave about sweet peas or the first garden salad. Really? lettuce?

As a storyteller, Mr. Niehaus made this non-fan listen. His stories were fresh, they had color, and most importantly, they had a human connection. His voice was true, he made us care.

Even the twins have been won over to the family’s favorite pastime, I expect it’s largely because of the snacks.

I want my garden stories to connect with gardeners and deepen the relationship with nature that develops when you tend to a plot of land. I write about seasonal rhythms, botanical wins—and losses, as well as tales of great love—and tedium. Familiar territory to anyone with dirty nails and awkward tan lines. But deep down, I want to tell stories that make non-gardeners sit up and pay attention to the beauty around us. I want people to care about the natural world.

Meeting a hero

Many years ago, I was a guest on a local radio show answering garden questions called in by listeners, no doubt weather and lettuce were discussed. Friends and family support my vocation even if they don’t always know (or care) what I’m talking about. But I had their rapt attention when I told them that I’d met the great Dave Niehaus as he arrived at the studio to go on air right after me. I shook his hand (!!) and told him I lived deeply among his fans. I’m sure he heard that all the time. I’m sure it never got old.

Thirteen years ago, Seattle, the Mariners franchise, and more importantly those I love, were rocked with loss when Mr. Niehaus unexpectedly died on a cold November day. Among the many remembrances and tributes that poured in from around the region, Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelly wrote: “He could be calling a baseball game, and it would seem as if literature broke out.” I can think of no higher praise.

Rest in peace Mr. Niehaus and thank you for clarifying one of life’s great mysteries for me.

 My oh my.

Sweet peas and salads are a win in my garden.