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Special Momix

Temperatures are warming. Flowers will begin blooming shortly. Everyone's starting to think about tax returns. And the Super Bowl is now in our rear-view mirror. Baseball must be right around the corner. Pitchers and catchers will report this week. Spring training games start in March, with the regular season opening in April. And it promises to be a splendid year for South Florida fans, as our team opens the season as defending World Series champs, a role only once before played by the Marlins. Hopefully, this year ends differently than the 1998 campaign, when the squad was sold piece by piece like an old coupe in a junkyard.

But what is a self-respecting hardball fan to do as the suspense builds toward the new season besides pore over league rosters in an attempt to keep up with all the off-season player movement? For starters, how about a theatrical look at America's pastime, complete with dance, gymnastics, and music? The cutting-edge performance troupe Momix performs Baseball, a play directed by Moses Pendleton, who is known for meshing acrobatics with lighting effects and film production. In this instance, Pendleton seeks to "imbue [the show] with a bit of nostalgia, dance, and gymnastics, bringing the viewer into the world of baseball as it once was." With that end in mind, the story begins by focusing on a caveman toiling with a stick and rock, evoking images of what prehistoric baseball might have looked like. From there, the viewer is taken for a ride on the game's time line, progressing through 17 sporting vignettes shaped by photographs, headlines, and newsreel footage, painting pictures of each historic era. A few of the myriad subjects include Babe Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Ted Williams, and the story winds around venerable structures like Fenway Park and Shea Stadium. But this Baseball is not just a spectator sport. Actors dress as human baseballs fleeing dancers with bats, and giant beer cans do a can-can along the stage to James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)." The show even contains partial nudity, not something you usually get to (or want to) see among the beer-swilling, tobacco-spitting patrons at Pro Player.

Accompanying the countless images is a music list complete with sports favorites like "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and Queen's "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You." The ambience for a ballpark setting is enhanced by audio of sports announcers and play-by-play men throughout history calling memorable contests. The production has been running since 1994, a big year in the annals of baseball. Fans will remember that season for a canceled World Series due to a player strike, with replacement "scabs" crossing the line the following spring before the two sides arrived at a new collective-bargaining agreement. Yet another chapter in the glorious and tumultuous history of our great game.

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Russ Evans

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