Friday, April 20, 2007

Why I love baseball

I love baseball. I grew up playing baseball. Dirt lots. Little League baseball diamonds. Conditioning a brand new glove with Wilson Glove Oil, gingerly placing a baseball in the pocket of the glove, and folding it just so; then placing it under the mattress for a month.
This is called breaking the glove in. This is important, any of you who have played the game with a brand new glove without breaking it in will remember the line drive shot right to you, you get a bead on the ball, the ball is in your mitt, you squeeze your hand to close the glove, already thinking to round second base and throw the runner out at first, but…

You can’t close the glove because it’s stiffer than titanium, and the ball hits your glove, pops out and bounces to the dirt. Your dreams of the perfect double play are dashed as you scramble to try to get the guy out at first because the guy running from first has already made it to second, but you come up short and the manager is yelling, “You dumb shit, why didn’t you break in your glove!”

Goats walk, to quote Charlie Brown.

So you see it’s very important to break in you glove.

I’m not sure coaches use that kind of language nowadays, but they sure did when I was a kid.

One’s choice of bat is also important in one’s baseball repertoire. My personal favorite was Carl Yastremski’s 36-ounce bat, of course being 14 years I couldn’t get the bat around fast enough, but hey if it was good enough for the Yaz, it was good enough for me.

I taught my brother to play baseball, who in turn became a better baseball player than me.

But not by much.

Baseball is as much an individual sport as it is a team sport. It depends on each member of the team to hustle and do their very best, but it also relies on each member of the team to know in advance how the play's going to go down. For example, there’s a man on first and a man on third. The count is three and one and there’s one out.

What does the batter do, should he hold up and take a walk or swing away?

What does the pitcher throw, should he smoke him with a fastball or take a risk and throw junk?

It’s all psychology. Well the pitcher throws a change up, the batter goes for it only to hit the ball to the shortstop, he checks the guy on third (but only for a millisecond), tosses the ball to the second baseman whose rounding around the base – taking out the runner and slings the ball to first base on the fly, taking out the runner and ending the inning.

Individual effort and teamwork.

Yogi Berra’s statement the game isn’t over until it’s over. It’s true. There are no time limitations to baseball, no running down the clock, NO TIES! I have actually been to a game that went 18 innings.

Baseball is like life (I hope that is not too cliché’). There are no time limits in life; it’s over when it’s over. In baseball it can look completely hopeless, and sometimes the players dig deep into their hearts they manage to pull off a win much as we do against all odds. Conversely, you can be in the bottom of the ninth, winning the game and through circumstances not entirely of your own doing you manage to lose.

That’s life isn’t it?

There are many nuances to baseball, just watch the manager, first and third base coaches. All those funny signals, it’s all contingent on what’s happening in the moment. It’s completely situational. Much like life.

I love baseball, it’s funny though, that I don’t spend a lot of time watching games, but I do think about it a great deal from April through October.

Maybe the Padres will make it to the Grand Finale this year.


Apollo said...

Another great thing about baseball is: The play of the game hasn't changed much in over a century.

Unlike football and basketball where the rules are changing almost by the minute, baseball provides a comforting consistency over time.

This consistency, in turn, gives baseball a timeless quality that other sports lack.

I once read an article about how baseball represents the pastoral side of America while football represents the gladiatorial.

Anyone who's ever played the game knows baseball is anything but pastoral. I think TV just makes it seem that way.

I'll leave that for a post to come, however.

Dawn Treader said...

About this baseball discussion, just wanted Chavo and Apollo to know what a wonderful time in my life it was, to watch you both shine on that baseball field. There was a profound sadness and feeling of loss when you both outgrew it. Perhaps you have both felt that feeling in your own childrens lives. But alas, life moves on for bigger and better things, but those memories remain in my heart forever Dawn theader

Chavo said...

Dawn Treader said "There was a profound sadness and feeling of loss when you both outgrew it." You never outgrow baseball, that I think is another reason that the game is in our hearts. How else to explain the elation of seeing the Boston Red Sox win the World Series twice in ones lifetime.

Not many people can say that, but I know a guy who did.

Chavo said...

Does it seem to you that there is a certain sense of ordinariness to the ball players today? Yesteryears' ball players were mythic. The Babe, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams all seem larger than life.

Or is it that they gain that status through the prism of time?