Why I Love Baseball & Why You Should Too
Today is opening day of basbeall and the beginning of a 162 game campaign for most teams and beyond that for a few great ones and their fans. It is my favorite time of year, because of what it means to my relationships with friends and family. This weekend we will continue a tradtion started years ago of meeting my father, friends and family from all over Texas to watch the opening game of the Round Rock Express. For the next seven months our lives will be intertwined with texts during games, hotdogs and peanuts at them and conversations about plays, trades, strategy and prospects in between.
Sit back and let me tell you whay i love baseball...and why you should too.
It is the American game. It has defined us for generations. It is one of the things, like apple pie and Chevrolet that states, "I am an American."
It is shared between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, grandsons and uncles. We share the game with complete strangers. "How about those Astros this year? Can you believe how well they are playing?"
It is "our" game, "our" ballpark, "our" boys.
The men that play it allow us the illusion that it is the same game we played as kids. My father was my little league coach. I’ll never forget the feeling of standing on the field with my father when WE were city champions. It binds generations. My grandfather played semi-pro ball on a field that was cut out of the back part of his cotton field in rural West Texas. My father’s family was very poor, but he made room and cut out crops, so his family and friends could play baseball. It was that important to the fabric of America. It still is.
It is a pastime that allows player and spectator alike to participate in a part of the other’s experience. How many other sports do kids and grownups bring their equipment to the game AND get to routinely use it?
Catching homeruns and ducking foul balls.
You’re in the game; as much as the player sitting on the edge of the bench chewing sunflower seeds is a spectator when it is two outs in the ninth inning, with the bases are loaded, and the count is three and two.
You can enjoy the sport...throw the ball, hit the ball, and catch the ball. The athletic ability of a baserunner stealing second or the art of a well-turned double play.
You can enjoy the game...left-handed batter, right-handed pitcher, suicide squeeze, the bunt. It is the only sport where the offense does not control the ball.
You can enjoy that it is the American Game. That it has been and continues to be one of the unique things about America. When you speak of assimilation, speak of baseball. What is more American than players from the Dominican Republic, Japan or Cuba alongside players from Texas, California and Connecticut in the Major League playing the National Pastime?
Just enjoy being outside with your friends. The action, followed by the pause...the conversation with your nephew about curves balls, the color of the sky, or the things you want to do next summer. Enjoy a hot dog.
The players do not appear to be supermen as they do in football.
The equipment they use is the same equipment we can buy at the sports store. Their mitts look like our mitts.
This illusion makes us enjoy the game in ways that we cannot enjoy others.
It makes us think, or even say out loud, “I did that once...I could do that again.” “I could.”
Baseball is a good analogy for life, or a career or relationships. They start off new and full of promise and hope. The green grass of spring and sunshine that warms the skin. The anxiety of the unfamiliar and unknown, but “Wait...I’ve been here before.”
Awkward at times...hints and glimmers of things to be and goals for the future. Those days of uncertainty transition to a comfortable rhythm.
The feel of a wooden bat in your hands. That comfortable cap as you slip it onto your head. The satisfaction of an ice-cold drink on a hot summer day. Then the early days of uncertainty are often forgotten and replaced with the confidence of knowing that you are in the groove. The conversation had without a spoken word. The sound of a bat cracking and without waiting you know that it is a homer...and your sprint to first base turns into an effortless trot.
Finally, the days grow shorter and the weather turns brisk. You realize that this game, this career, this relationship will not last forever and you begin to savor every game, every well hit ball and the sights and smells of the stadium, tucking them away deep in your mind for the cold winter that follows.
And those months ARE cold.
They ARE LONELY.
They are DIFFICULT AND TRYING TO THE SOUL.
Then...after four months of winter cold, rain and wind, hope springs eternal and sometime in early March...there is baseball.
Life goes on.
In baseball and in life, you have to play every game. Unlike other sports that play a few times a week (or less), baseball is played almost every day. 162 games with an occasional break. No matter how great the victory or how shattering the defeat, it does not define a season. Your life is not defined by a single action...good or bad. The next morning you have to get up and play the game again.
The difference between a 300 hitter and a 200 hitter is one more base hit a week, one more dying quail, ground ball with eyes or Texas Leaguer out of 15-20 at bats. You never run out of time in baseball. Just keep your head down and keep plugging away at the ball, or your job, or your relationship. Do you know the record for fouls balls at one “At Bat”? There isn’t one. Foul balls don’t count against you.
As in life, the little missteps, the little mistakes can be the prelude to greatness...the thing that happened, that no one remembers or keeps record of, just before your greatest triumph. Mercifully, until the last out of the last inning, there is always hope...as long as you stand in there cutting...
...as long as you are making contact. Stay in the batter’s box.
Just like life, every day is not win or lose...sometimes you win and sometimes you lose...
...or sometimes it’s not played at all, depending on the outcome of the season. Maybe it really didn’t matter as much as you thought it did that day back in June.
...and sometimes it rains, and the game is rescheduled for another time.
We all have streaks and we all have slumps...just like this week, after a string of long days and even longer nights and I had forgotten what the sun looked like.
I got up for my drive to work today, the pavement still wet from a night of what seemed like endless nights of rain. This thought lingered...the season is over for the year. The boys of summer are gone. The radio will only crackle with talk radio, music or news, rather than timeless sounds of baseball.
And then without a thought, I reached over and pulled out my sunglasses, as the sun glared through the windshield. I reached up, rolled the sunroof back and drove to work...that old feeling.
Next Spring, there will be baseball.
#project48 & #dragoonunlimited
Project 48 is Dragoon Unlimited's initiative to celebrate the best of America. To adhere to the things that bind us, not divide us. It is our effort to reinforce the the good of this nation, the progress we have made and the bright future we all have when we give our best to our nation. To hold on to the things that matter and to change the things we can do better. Share and follow along as we chase our American Dream!