FOR some people it was kindergarten or soccer or TV or even cats, but it seems all I know about love, sex and getting by in life I learned from baseball. If we played the game and pondered about it long enough it was all there. The national pastime not only gave us North American men life lessons but also a poetic, symbolic language/jargon to use in our every day lives. In the pre-politically correct days the boys stood around, and followed by lots of 'wind'-powered jokes, scratching and elbow-ribbing, we asked the 'batting champion' how he did the night before. His answer was as varied as the number of pitchers and their throwing styles. Some nights he 'struck out' or hit into a 'doubleplay'. On better nights he 'bunted' and beat the throw to first base only to get 'caught stealing second'. But most of us spent our time warming the bench or watching the game from the cheap seats in right field, munching on peanuts, hot dogs and fishing the prize out of the bottom of the Cracker Jacks box. We didn't come up to bat often, so our strikeouts were few and far between. Then again so were our 'home runs'. The girls? Some were strictly bush league, but once in a while a real Major Leaguer with the real fast stuff stepped up to the mound and threw curveballs and breaking balls that would make even the Hell's Angels' softball team go down swinging. The lessons? That came later and most were forgotten but a few stayed with me: Always wear a helmet when I step up to the plate. Keep my eyes on the ball. Stretching is important, especially near the seventh inning. Never swing at a 2-0 pitch. Errors happen. Sacrifices are a part of the game. Three strikes and you're out. (Something New York Mets' Dwight Gooden should have thought about before he took another sniff of that white nose candy, testing positive for cocaine and violating his after-care substance abuse programme for the third time). It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but whether anyone saw you adjusting your protective cup. No matter how much we argued, cursed, shouted and kicked the dirt about the umpire always had the last word on a strike. So with the 1994 baseball season given a premature burial and owners and players succeeding in doing what two World Wars and one earthquake could not - namely deny fans a championship series - what lessons are we to glean from this? That money and greed, not midsummer double-headers and late-inning home runs, make the world go round? Well strike on then, I say, while I dream of my own personal 'World Series' where I complete an unassisted triple-play and also smack an inside-the-park homer, just beating the tag at home.