Polis at bat

Then-U.S. Rep. Jared Polis lays down a bunt in the 2017 Congressional Baseball Game, when he batted 4 for 4, including the game-winning hit.

My mind tumbled back 21 years, then 50, when I heard the good news that Denver would host this year’s Major League Baseball game in July. Baseball is a time machine, even if the times we're living in are worth forgetting.

Denver’s good luck was Georgia’s bad, a product of the balls and strikes of politics: the Big Lie, fake news, woke corporations and election integrity.

Mostly I remember enjoying the boiled jumbo shrimp and cocktail sauce in Ted Turner’s luxury box at the 2000 All-Star Game. As such, I missed Hank Aaron throwing out the first pitch. The Georgia heat hovered near 90 degrees in spite of the setting sun.

I watched half the game in the luxury box, and other half along the baseline, based on where CNN's big shots wanted to sit. 

Chipper Jones cracked a homer in his own ballpark, and Derek Jeter was the first Yankee to become an All-Star Game MVP, hitting 3 for 3, as I stuffed my face with one free shrimp after another.

Beardless and baby-faced, Todd Helton was one of three Rockies in the game. That season he was denied the league MVP title, because voters thought he enjoyed a big advantage swatting them out in the thin altitude of the Mile High City. They called it the Coors Field Curse.

They're not cursing Colorado now. The city’s lure is that the home run derby could pull in massive TV viewers to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who bashed 91 in the 2019 derby, or 6-foot-5 Texas slugger Joey Gallo launching moon shots.

If ever there was a time to put aside our differences, it’s here in the glow of professional baseball, the game that’s made America great for 150 years.

If we can ever put aside our differences, it ought to be over an ice cold beer down the baseline. The game represents the best of us, and it bothers me a little that right now maybe it doesn’t. If we tried to start a wave as a nation, it’d look more like crashing against the rocks.

I hope the country comes back around, and America comes back to baseball.

"For its money they have, and peace they lack," said "Field of Dreams" character Terence Mann in that bass-baritone voice you can hear in your head right now. "And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon.

"They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes."

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The first MLB game I ever saw in person was in Atlanta, when I was 10 years old. Hank Aaron was at that one, too, in right field the season before he would pass Babe Ruth as the king of homers. My favorite player, though, was in center field, the toothpick-chewing Dusty Baker, who would go on to invent the high five. My Little League team sat right behind him, and it was a night I'll never forget.

The next year, when Hank hammered out the record homer, I noticed Dusty was taking cuts on deck. Dusty Rhodes was my favorite wrestler because Dusty Baker was my favorite baseball player.

Our governor loves baseball, too. Jared "Moonlight" Polis went 4-for-4 in his last Congressional Baseball game in 2017, including driving in the winning run. He still holds the scoring record with a career 12 runs batted in for the 61-year-old game between Capitol Democrats and Republicans.

And now it's Democrats and Republicans struggling with baseball once more. Yet, again, it's Polis getting the game-winning hit.

You can talk all kinds of history and stats to compare Denver to Atlanta: days of early voting, minority voting muscle, less-complicated racial history.

Tim Scott, the senator from South Carolina, who is Black, was on Twitter Tuesday arguing that Atlanta had more days of early voting than Colorado, and the state has more Black people.

"The Wokes are at it again, folks," Scott tweeted, referring to term used for those who maintain awareness on social and racial and justice.

In the end, the only stat that matters in politics or baseball is the final score.

Colorado was ready, willing and able to put on the game in a noncontroversial state that has had mail-ballot voting for nine years, six of them under Republican secretaries of state. No one did, really, until Donald Trump forecast that the only way he could lose was if the election were rigged.

Imagine Babe Ruth pointing to the stands, then claiming he was thrown a spit ball.

America needs baseball more than we need politicians, and those calling for the cancellation of baseball should tread lightly.

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball," said Terence Mann. "America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.

"This field, this game — it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."

Play ball.

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