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What’s Good for Baseball

October 11, 2009

I don’t write a lot about sports, tending to keep on the subject of photography, which is what all the successful bloggers told me to do, but I have to, once in a while, get out something on my beloved sports.

I don’t have cable television, so I actually RARELY watch sports, but I do follow certain pursuits, football, baseball, tennis, cycling, etc.

At the moment we are in round one of the baseball playoffs, and I have to say, I’m really enjoying it, even if all the games are on TBS, a channel I don’t get.

What I do get is Telemundo, and this amazing show which is a cross between a game show, news program, rodeo and MMA fight. There are girls in cages dancing on the edge of the stage, the host wears a cowboy hat, and there is what I think is a drunken dwarf with a cheese gun spraying the audience. I have no idea what is going on, but everyone seems to be having the best time. The Spanish is too fast for me, so I only pick up a word or two here and there. Oh, and I also get Latin soap opera/action show type programs, which all involve middle age men with guns, a lot of violence, and sometimes a good guy in a wrestling mask who always avoids getting shot. Whatever, it all works for me, and I blow hours and hours trying to connect with these characters.

But in the background, via shortwave radio, telex and newsprint, I’m following baseball.

Now for anyone who says, “Baseball is boring,” to me it just means you don’t understand the game. For years I thought it was boring too, but you gotta drop that old hat and really pay attention to what is going on.

If you feel this way, the first thing you have to do is go to the battle cages. Like today. Like right now. Go to the cage on the far right, the one that throws the 80mph fastballs. Get your helmet, get your bat and crowd the plate. Wait for it, wait for it……..

After your heart rate has fallen and you’ve changed your shorts, just realize the ball that just went past you before you had a chance to choke up on the bat is SLOW, very SLOW, compared to what is coming at these pro players. And remember that the ball coming at you is coming from a machine.

Ppphhhoooossstt, pphhhoooossstt, every time the same, predictable. And now realize that the balls coming at the pro players are coming from error prone humans with much testosterone, sometimes synthetic, who like to throw at each others head.

Okay, so back to the cage. Go ahead, dig in and take a swing. If for some odd reason you connect well then fair dinkem to you, but most of the time, if you make contact at all, you will foul a ball off. If you have done this you know bad it hurts to foul a 80mph ball off. If you don’t, then just let me tell you. It really hurts.

Hitting a 90+mph ball with a bat is truly a miraculous feat. I’m not saying it’s important, not by any stretch, but it is tough to do and will give you more of an appreciation for what is going on.

Also, baseball is filled with strategy, and the guys and gals who really follow baseball are truly master studies of the game. If Billy, who bats right, comes up in the 7th with one on, and Billy has a .278 average against right hand pitching and the opposing coach knows that Billy only bats .158 on the road against lefty pitching but actually has a lifetime .770 average against the guy warming up in the bullpen, well, now this coach has a decision to make.

Baseball is followed in detail more than any sport I have ever seen, and I have a tremendous appreciation for this. I really do. It’s like us following what CMOS chip is in the latest issue and where that chip was made and how many square feet the clean room is that made that chip, and how the company moved from Tokyo to Kobe to save a little rent money. It’s that sick in detail.

Baseball, for those who follow it is about love. Sounds cheesy, it isn’t. It’s beautiful.

If you get a chance to go to game, just go, even if you have no desire to see the game. Just take your time and look around, and look at the fringes. Don’t go to the luxury boxes, those are typically boring and filling with maybe not the most genuine of fans. Head to the upper deck or the edges of the grand palace and look for the people with the earpiece in their ear, a notebook in their hand, people who are sitting alone. These are the real treasures. They don’t buy $17 beers or designer pizza or sushi, in fact these things turn their stomach. These are the followers. They live the game. Maybe they never made the team, ever, but the game is in their blood, like wasabi and Stella are in the blood of the luxury box folks. Hey, they are all cheering the team, but only one of these groups would throw themselves under the bus for the team.

The fringes of baseball parks are part of our national treasure in my mind. And, don’t limit yourself to the major parks. Single A, double A, triple A parks are in many cases even better than the mega-stadiums. They contain the diehards, the locals. When I worked for Kodak I always tried to go to the local stadium across the street from Kodak World Rochester Downtown Underground Dividian Compound.

These “lesser” stadiums are baseball up close.

So now we find ourselves in the middle of playoffs, with some serious shakeups going on. For a long while there has been a rumor that the sports media, much of which is based in the East, has a bias toward East Coast teams. Well, this isn’t a rumor, it’s the truth. In fact, I don’t think much of the media even tries to hide it.

I’m a Mariner fan, a team based in Seattle, and when was the last time you heard anything about the Mariners. The team finished with a winning record, has the best leadoff hitter in the game, a Japanese player who broke several more records this year, and the team also has a 19-game-winning pitcher who throws NASTY stuff, King Felix Hernandez.

If either player strapped on their cleats in New York or Boston you would see and hear these guys all the time.

Part of the issue is time. Games that start late in the West are REALLY late in the East, so much of the time these are not ignored, but are perhaps not actually watched by many of the folks writing about sports. It’s only natural I guess.

But I also think much of the media is somewhat lazy and sloppy these days, going for the cliche, the easy, and not really digging for stories. Not all but some.

So what is happening now is just fantastic for baseball, in both the unexpected and the expected.

The Yankees are up 2-0 in their series, against one of the smallest market teams, the Minnesota Twins. The Twins following might be small in comparison to the Yankees, but their fans are as rabid as any I’ve ever seen. Just to survive that winter you have to be half mad, so this should be a good indicator.
I think the Twins are good enough to win this series, and actually the entire thing, but odds are now they won’t, and baseball and the “MEDIA” are praying they lose. Baseball needs the revenue and are hoping, as they ALWAYS do for a Yankee vs anyone series.

Baseball wants big market teams, which translate to big ratings, and the “media” wants cities with great food and nightlife. Seriously, this is how it works.

About fifteen miles from my house the Anaheim Angels have been putting a serious beatdown on the Boston Red Sox, and if you listen carefully you can hear the world of baseball and the “media” collectively groaning. A team from……..Anaheim. The only thing worse would be Kansas City? Well, maybe not.

Boston is about legend, about history, about strife, curses, legacy, historic players, etc, and Anaheim is about…..Disneyland and sushi in the box seats. The team kicks ass, they really do, but the aura might not be what baseball and the “media,” deem worthy.

Imaging a World Series(although we are the only country invited) with Minnesota, Anaheim, Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego, etc, sends a death shiver through the commissioner of baseball, who on opening day is rumored to be building a shrine to the baseball Gods, and the shrine is in Yankee pinstripes.

So what is happening now has me frothing at the mouth. I like shakeups. I like to see the commissioner interviewed while sitting in the archaic seats of a small market, squirming as some network talking head roasts him about how much revenue they are losing during the biggest series of the year(in between questions about how another star got busted juicing up on birth control pills or fertility drugs of some kind.)

I figure as long as the games are good, then so be it. May the best team win, regardless of what the commish or the “media” wants.

So as I sit here on this cloudy, bitterly-cold, 75-degree, Southern California fall morning, I’m pulling for Anaheim, Minnesota, Colorado and cursing the fact my Mariners got shafted once again. Just wait till next year!!

And for those of you who have written off baseball, give it another chance, and realize that what looks slow and easy really isn’t. And more importantly, if you get a chance to play baseball yourself, go for it. Crowd the plate and swing for the fence, works for me.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2009 3:46 pm

    Always loved baseball. Always loved the Dodgers, especially since their AAA club played in Albuquerque, 60 miles from where I grew up. I still remember warm summer nights at the ballpark watching Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Steve Garvey & Davie Lopes play before they moved up to the big time.

    The best part of the game is that every pitch means something and you don’t know who’s going to win until the last pitch is thrown; “It ain’t over till it’s over!” A lot of pent-up anticipation, every game, every inning, every pitch.

    Da Bums v. Halos, best WS matchup. Forget Manny, the rest of the team kicks ass!

    • October 12, 2009 5:56 pm

      Hey, that’s funny, I grew up watching the Missions games in San Antonio, the AA team for the Dodgers.
      I’m an Ichiro fan now, love watching that guy, who seems to draw the ire of a few of the traditionalist folks who think you should only hit for power, which I think he actually can but chooses not to.
      Oh well, next year.

  2. David Wissinger permalink
    October 12, 2009 6:06 pm

    My favorite thing about basball is: No Clock. The game moves on its own time, just the way summertime probably did when basball got started. There’s nothing quite like wathing the game, at home or at the park, drinking a beer or a few, having no idea when the game will end.

  3. October 12, 2009 6:24 pm

    And today these games are routinely over 3 hours.

  4. Paul permalink
    October 13, 2009 1:50 am

    plus you gotta love a sport from which comes a movie like Bull Durham…

  5. October 13, 2009 1:58 am

    Yep, love that movie. And Field of Dreams, and the Natural and Bad News Bears, etc, etc.

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