As the regular season of baseball draws to a close – and sadly, neither of “my” teams (the 2013 World Series champs, the Boston Red Sox, nor the Texas Rangers will survive into post-season competition), I thought I would blog some thoughts about America’s Pastime, overall. An embarrassment to my athletic/sports heritage family, I am not a sports “fan.” I do, however, love baseball. Maybe it’s the tradition. I love all things American, including the other items in that old idiom “As American as Mom, baseball, and apple pie.” I believe other things have been substituted in that quote, such as hot dogs and Chevrolet. However one chooses to word the quote, I’m in.
In 2010, the Texas Rangers had just acquired new pitcher Cliff Lee on July 9, and he started for the team the very next night. I was thinking of how in most other sports, there are specific, if not proprietary “plays,” and strategies that must be learned. Typically, in other sports, a new player would absolutely have to work out with the team for some time before he could start in a season game. Not so with baseball. As I pondered this, it occurred to me: Baseball is the CHECKERS of pro sports. Uncomplicated. Just “play ball!”
It is likely this perfect simplicity that allowed this young mom to coach my son’s tee-ball team many years ago. All of the teams were organized, with the last 15 or so kids waiting. No dads were stepping up to the plate (as it were), to coach this last group of toddly, little 4 through 6-year- olds who really wanted to play. Yet, with no coach, there would not be an additional team in that YWCA league. Despite my lack of previous coaching experience, I volunteered, just so these kids (which included my son) could play. As the last team to be formed, we had to choose from the leftover colors, team names, etc. so, my little “Bisons,” dressed in purple and white, might as well have been the “Last Minute Misfits.” You would not believe the criticism I got from players’ dads for my very “mommy” coaching style. Had those same dads offered to coach, they would not have had to put up with a “girl” coach. Nevertheless, my little toddling team of tee-ball players (who had never played an organized sport, guided by a woman who had never coached) were un-defeated, and took the 1st Place trophy that summer of 1989. That is one reason I love the simplicity of all forms of this game played on a cock-eyed rectangle they call a diamond. Even a mom can guide children through it (on some level). If I am not mistaken, in early elementary school, they would start us out with Kick Ball, which had the same basic fundamentals as baseball. Yet, kicking and catching the larger, rubber ball was easier than hitting a little ball with a bat, providing greater odds of scoring and personal accomplishment or the young beginners. Please note, I do recognize the detailed strategic game plans of the sport on a professional level, and the necessary athletic skills required to compete. So, to justify my calling it the CHECKERS of professional sports, I maintain that, overall, the game is very basic:
- OFFENSIVE: Hit the ball. Run the bases.
- DEFENSIVE: Stand in your place. Keep your eye on the ball. If it comes to you, try to tag the runner.
- Just “play ball.”
The best thing about “America’s Pastime” is its heritage, steeped in tradition. From playing or watching your children play Little League at a community field, to attending a professional game at a mega stadium, there’s just nothing like the atmosphere – the sights, the sounds – ballpark hot dogs, crack of the bat, bugs in the lights, 7th inning stretch, (“Sweet Caroline” in Boston), passionate spectator enthusiasm – all part of the baseball experience. And who can dismiss the dozens of movies defining America’s romance with the sport (in no particular order):
“The Pride of the Yankees,” “The Stratton Story,” “The Babe Ruth Story” (any movie about “The Babe”), “The Natural,” “Field of Dreams,” “Angels in the Outfield,” “Sandlot,” “For the Love of the Game,” “Damn Yankees,” “Bad News Bears” (the original), “Stealing Home,” “Fever Pitch” (my personal fave).
If I omitted your favorite, leave a comment – let me know. Finally, my opinion (duhh, it’s my blog 😉 ) professional football has the money; baseball has the heart.
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