Monday, April 9, 2012


Spring is a time in New England when the renewal of life is a true inspiration.
Inspiration can be found on any country corner, in anybody’s backyard, in ways that are singular to personal taste. I’d like to share two of mine, one incredibly broad and the other exclusive.
Nothing soothes the soul like nature.  The first of God’s phenomena, Connecticut style, is the Laurel Ridge Foundation daffodil field in Northfield, just outside of Litchfield. The gloom of winter makes its final exit when you pass by this explosion of color, a broad brushstroke of nature’s handiwork.
A hillside literally covered with white and yellow daffodils rolls gently toward a pond framed by evergreens. A little island with daffodils and evergreens is so inviting but alas, no canoes in sight.  A deep breath fills your lungs with an indescribable sweetness that covers you with a blanket of inner peace.  All your troubles leave with the next exhale.
By mid-May, it’s just another meadow, but one that’s filled its many visitors with visual memories that will last a lifetime.
As the daffodils swoon, the sweet blooms common to most every sunlit highway and byway in Connecticut emerge for their all-too-fleeting visit.
There’s a reason why every company that manufactures items for purposes of covering pungent odors includes lilac among its chosen fragrances. It ranks right up there with the rose for the way you would expect the environment to smell in heaven. Just ask the Yankee Candle Company.
Lilacs generally are at their peak the first week of May. You may be walking amongst a bush or two and notice the fragrance yet you may not give it a second thought. Often the bushes are allowed to grow without a trimming and they’ll reach toward the sun, or maybe its heaven.
Inspiration comes in diverse forms, and a another sure source is baseball.
There’s no need to take out a mortgage to get adequate seats Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium. Baseball is a beautiful game at virtually any level.
Locally, the college teams are in action as well as the high schools. If you truly love the game like I do, you will find that these players possess each and every characteristic that their big-league brethren do. The key is balance. A contest between two competitive pitchers will often bring the taut late-inning drama that true fans crave.
But if you truly want to enjoy ballpark amenities and the best baseball between the Green Monster and the Major Deegan Expressway, you have the New Britain Rock Cats.
The true beauty of Eastern League ball has a springtime virtue that isn’t totally unlike the daffodils and lilacs. Somewhere at New Britain Stadium at any given time, a talent is blooming.
I watched a young David Ortiz before he was Big Papi, slugging baseballs into the dark of Willow Brook Park with little fanfare.
I recall a struggling right-handed pitcher named Kyle Lohse before he gained the confidence to match his arm strength. Because he doesn’t play for Boston and New York, his name may be unfamiliar, but I invite you to review the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals pitching statistics.
You only care about the Red Sox? Several young, ambitious, talented players displayed their wares multiple times in New Britain before moving on. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are the cornerstones of Boston’s future. Circle “Portland Sea Dogs” on your handy Rock Cats schedule to see if you can determine the next wave of prospects.
But please don’t be so parochial that you will ignore the other talented lads on display. The Minnesota Twins supply the human resources for the Rock Cats, and their astute scouting and development people have succeeded in dispersing a rich vein of talent throughout the major leagues.
Michael Cuddyer played two seasons in New Britain. He’s now a multi-millionaire with the Colorado Rockies. Jason Kubel was such a gifted hitter that he came and went in one short springtime term. He’s now blasting shots for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Joe Mauer. Justin Morneau. Denard Span. The list goes on and on.
Another benefit of attending Rock Cats games are the major-league amenities.
For a minimal admission price, you get comfortable seats, an informative program, a well-stocked souvenir store and a wide range of food at reasonable prices. You have coffee and hot chocolate when its chilly, frosty beer and soft drinks when you’re parched.
Springtime in New England? You betcha. I’d write a few more lines except I’m going out to the deck to do some gardening and tune in to a Rock Cats game. Inspiration doesn’t have to come in complex or expensive packages.