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Play ball, please

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Suicide bombers. Vanloads of women and children shot. All-war TV channels. Front pages and special sections. This war has invaded the comics pages already. We can't ignore it. We shouldn't. We have to do what we can. But... we have to take care of ourselves, too.

Ryan Thompson knows at least part of the answer. Baseball.

"You look at what's going on in the world, and the serenity that it brings to people. It has a way to make you have a calm about things."

Tuesday evening, in a cool breeze under a cotton candy sky, he was one of a couple of dozen Durham Bulls doing windmills on the emerald green outfield of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, getting ready for a new season. They're the International League champions, but like they say, on opening day (Thursday for the Bulls) everyone's even. They have something baseball can share with us. Hope.

Thompson's 35 years old, the senior player on a pretty seasoned team--someone said they've calculated the average age at 28.48 (baseball's got a statistic for everything). More than half the players have been in the majors. Thompson's been playing professional baseball since 1987, from Medicine Hat to a world championship with the New York Yankees. He likes playing for the Bulls, down to the goody bags with chocolates for arriving players--"That shows they're classy." But he wants to get back to the big leagues.

"Some guys are happy being here, status quo. Not me. [Almost] every year I've been in the big leagues since '92."

The Bulls are a farm team for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who have never finished higher than fifth place. And they're the youngest team in the league this year. That, as much as any of their skills, gives Thompson and the other vets on the Bulls hope they'll be called up.

The real world won't be too far from the DBAP. They'll be giving out yellow ribbon pins at some of the games. And there's a big yellow ribbon painted on the field behind home plate. "We'll have the ribbon there until the troops come home," says Matt DeMargel, the team's PR man.

We need to make that happen as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Bulls can give us hope, just as they have 5-year-old Braxton Dean, the youngest person at the park on Tuesday.

Asked how the team was going to be this season, he said: "Good. Very, very good."

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