The late, great Bill Veeck, former major-league owner and Eastern Shore resident, once said, "That's the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball."
Yes, it's that time of year and while many across our nation suffer without major-league baseball, we in Anne Arundel County can feel privileged to have a quality high school baseball program as an escape.
Who needs those prima donnas when we have young kids who play for the love of the game? Few big-leaguers still play the game the way they had to play it to get there and that's why I enjoy the kids so much more.
A true baseball fan loves all baseball whether it be major league, college, high school or amateur. So, while those at the top continue their dispute, remember that the game itself is bigger than those who forget the pleasure it brings on any level.
The words of the legendary Red Smith remind us how much we can enjoy baseball without the pros. "Ninety feet between the bases is the nearest perfection that man has yet achieved," wrote Smith.
It's 90 feet from station to station on the high school, college and amateur levels, so get out and take in a game this week. If you've never seen an Anne Arundel County high school baseball game, you owe it to yourself to catch one this week, and chances are you will get hooked.
I'm convinced that you would enjoy a high school or college game more than any replacement players' rank fabrication.
The high schools are full of quality players with pro and Division I college potential as well as quality coaches. Only three coaches have fewer than five years head coaching experience in Jim Simms (fourth at Chesapeake), Rick Terry (third at Meade) and Rick Hopkins (first at Southern).
Four coaches have 22 years or more on the job, and four have at least 11 years, three of them starting their 17th seasons. That kind of continuity creates a great program.
And the umpiring is excellent from Jack Kramp's Anne Arundel Amateur Umpires Association.
Since I'm trying to sell you on high school baseball, let me give you a couple of promising games for 3:45 p.m. Tuesday as the schools jump into the '95 season.
No. 4 North County plays host to No. 11 Severna Park, two of last year's four playoff teams in the 4A East Region won by No. 3 Arundel. Another good one should be No. 8 Old Mill at Chesapeake.
North County is expected to send ace Mike Wooden, who begins his fourth varsity season, to the mound to open their new field.
With the dimensions over 400 feet to center field and 330 down the lines, North County's new digs are definitely a pitcher's park. There won't be too many balls hit out of there, and the Knights' strong pitching will only make it tougher.
Coach Jim Pitt's Severna Park Falcons beat Wooden in last year's opener and Wooden is anxious to redeem himself against a hard-hitting lineup that includes returning All-Metro outfielder Steve Neuberger and outfielder Matt Griswold. Pitt will counter with second-team All-County pitcher Scotty Vane or Bill Erskine.
Starting pitchers for Mel Montgomery at Old Mill and Simms at Chesapeake were to be decided over the weekend, and the two clubs are expected to be two of the county's top offensive teams. It could be a wild one in Lake Shore.
Around the horn
Coach Ken Dunn's South River Seahawks and Mark Stover's Broadneck Bruins got the jump on everybody else in the county by opening last week. South River was no-hit, 8-0, by Thomas Stone of Charles County on Tuesday while the Bruins out-slugged Southern of Baltimore, 8-6, on Wednesday.
Catcher Alan Way's two-run triple was the decisive blow in a six-run seventh for the Bruins at Swann Park in South Baltimore.
* Former North County left-hander Bob Christopher notched his first junior-college victory Thursday, working the first six innings in a 7-1 victory for Essex C.C. over Frederick.
Former Old Mill and AACC lefty Jimmy Simms went five innings in Baltimore to pace George Mason University to a 13-4 romp over Coppin State.