The tour has begun.

It is summer (almost), and that means the tour of baseball parks around the state of Nebraska has started.

For the next couple months our lives will be a whirlwind of evening games and weekend tournaments as we follow our son through the season.

It is my favorite time of the year. There is only baseball season and waiting for baseball season in our home.

Nothing beats warm nights and the smell of burgers on the grill. Baseball under the lights, helpful tips for the umpires and checking out other ball parks in the state.

I know, according to popularity, baseball no longer is America's pastime. It has been surpassed by football, and nothing is going to change that any time soon.

Baseball, to the casual observer, is slow and methodic and boring. As far as action, well, to some, there isn't any.

But for those of us who were raised when baseball was king, we owe a debt of gratitude to our fathers who taught us the beauty of the hit-and-run and suicide squeeze.

My dad used to regale me with stories of Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial. And when he thought I was worthy, passed along to me his prized autographed photo of Ted Williams.

I asked him about the players he followed, and as I grew up we shared a following of Reggie Jackson.

He taught me a lot about baseball and life and how they were intertwined. Those were some of the best lessons I learned and some of the best talks we had.

Now it is my time.

I have passed along my passion to my son, Alek, and some day, maybe he will have a son and do the same.

That is how this beautiful game survives, through the growing power of football.

Baseball may never have the following it once did, and the World Series will not conquer the Super Bowl, but there is a history in the grand old game that no sport can equal.

Baseball, like our country, has survived a lot strikes, scandals, liars and cheats.

It goes on despite drugs and steroids and the fight over the almighty dollar.

It moves ahead despite the failures of heroes like Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Sox. It pushes on even though Mark McGwire admits using steroids and Barry Bonds denies it.

Drive through any town in this country in the summer and there are kids in baggy uniforms with hats too big, and there are bigger kids whose uniforms are custom fit, and they all are standing on green fields playing baseball.

It does not matter how big the player or how populated the city, the game is essentially the same.

There are three strikes and three outs, and over the fence is always a home run.

In the stands there are moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. There are people watching who do not know any of the kids, but they know it's baseball.

A baseball fan can drive to any park in any state and take a seat or stand along the fence and feel at home.

They know the game. They love the game. It is the same game their fathers taught them.

And someday it will be their turn to teach their children.

That is how the game survives. That is why the game will always survive.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.