Sounds of the season

Last Call

The soothing comforts of the season arrive with five words: “Well, Suzyn, I thank you.”

Five words that erase the harsh wintry winds and instead brighten the possibilities of spring.

Five words that signal that the familiar daily rhythms have returned.

Baseball is back.

It’s fascinating how the sound of someone’s voice can instantly transport us back to a time and place of contentment and evoke instant joy.

The words were spoken by John Sterling, the radio voice of the New York Yankees since 1989, who moments before the first pitch on Opening Day last month was acknowledging his broadcast partner, Suzyn Waldman.

Five words that signaled not only the start of the baseball season but the beginning of scouring box scores each day and following the ever-changing standings and statistical leaderboard.

Five words that launched a joyous spring and summer of reading thousands of words on analytics, comeback stories, rookie sensations, veterans reaching milestones and riveting pennant races.

Baseball bliss.

The Opening Day greeting was live from New York (where I developed my baseball fandom), but that same excitement was undoubtedly felt throughout the country.

It certainly was on the Braves Radio Network, which has more than 150 radio stations across nine states, including 17 in South Carolina.

Thanks to our local radio affiliates, we get to enjoy the Braves and the voices of Ben Ingram, Joe Simpson and Jim Powell. Ingram’s enthusiasm (“Let’s get this thing going”) was instantly evident.

It was fun listening to the crew as the Braves made their unexpected run to the World Series championship last year (“Break out the bubbly, baby,” Simpson shouted after the title-clinching win).

I reveled in their enthusiasm just as I would have for longtime friends. Local announcers become part of the day-to-day enjoyment.

They are our trusted voices. We look forward to their comfortable banter, their catch phrases and often corny jokes.

That’s OK. They’re our announcers.

The voices of our hometown broadcasters are the familiar voices that carry us through dull drives to and from the grocery store, long nights at work and relaxing weekend afternoons on the porch.

Baseball is a joy to watch, but it’s an intimate experience to listen to a game on the radio.

The game remains captivating when consumed by the background murmurs (and sometime cackles) of the crowd, the catchy, sing-song local commercials, the distant but audible press-box announcements and when picturing the action as the crowd roars and the excited announcer relays the play-by-play in exact detail to a rapt audience.

We listen intently for each ball and strike call and the clear pop of the catcher’s mitt. We keep an ear out for each hopeful line drive down the line that lands just fair, and we await the daily in-game sweepstakes (“This is the Toyota Stolen Base Challenge inning”).

Will there be a winner in tonight’s contest?

I enjoy catching the Braves games, and thanks to the MLB At Bat app I follow all the happenings in the Bronx.

No matter the city or team, there is a universal shared experience of enjoying the national pastime on the radio.

The sound of John’s and Suzyn’s voices brought the season into focus and brought me back to countless afternoons playing Wiffle ball with friends as the game aired in the background. I remember evenings driving home from Yankee Stadium with my father as we merged with traffic on the expressway, listening to the post-game highlights and the highly anticipated out-of-town scoreboard.

They were the voices of an optimistic future. They were the welcoming sounds of the season.