Growing up, I wasn’t very good at baseball. In little league, I played left field and usually batted towards the bottom of the order. On many occasions I was told that if I “put my weight behind it” and “ever got a-hold of one” I would hit a home run. Despite my best efforts (and girth), I only managed to hit it to the fence a couple of times and never joined the elite club that is little leaguers who hit a ball over the fence. I still had a great time playing and couldn’t wait for every at-bat, confident that my next swing may be “the one”. While in the field, I wanted a ball hit just the perfect distance in front of me so that I could slide and catch it.
My years in little league were the extent of my baseball playing career. Some of the guys I played with made it to the minor leagues and still may get a crack at the bigs. Even though I never parlayed it into a career, my time in little league will be something I never forget. It’s crazy that I can remember a singular catch I made when I was 11 years old but can’t remember my 6th grade teacher’s name.
Baseball is special because it coincides with periods of our lives. Baseball is played in the summer: kids are out of school, its warm, vacations are taken and it just seems like a period when more time is spent with family and friends. How often do you hear someone say “do you remember the winter of our sophomore year of college?” or something to that effect? Never. It’s always summer , and with summer goes baseball and vice versa.
I like baseball because every game is entertaining, from little league to the major leagues, the same game is being played, just with the size and skill levels of the players being different. If I catch a AA game between two teams full of players I have never heard of, I am still going to enjoy myself and follow the game. A great curve ball looks amazing whether being thrown by a guy who's college is being paid for by playing baseball or a multimillionaire who has spent more time playing baseball than most people have spent doing anything. I love a home run whether it is hit by an aluminum Easton or wooden Louisville Slugger. If you find yourself with time to just hang out and relax on a warm summer's day, it is always going to be more enjoyable if there is a baseball game going on somewhere around you.
Baseball is great because there is no clock. In football I freak out with every second that ticks away while my team is losing, and coaches can be fired simply for "poor clock management". The game of basketball is full of "clocks" and "counts": the game clock, the shot clock, the difference between the game clock and the shot clock, three seconds in the lane, five seconds to inbounds, ten (or eight) seconds to get it across half court. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think football and basketball should rid themselves of clocks, I'm simply saying baseball works perfectly without one. If I sit down to watch an NFL game I know it is perfectly okay to schedule something four hours later (probably a bad idea because I won't be sober). I can attend a basketball game and be home within three hours 99% of the time. Baseball games, on the other hand, are scheduled "beginning time-?" (just like cookouts should be). I've seen innings that last left than five minutes and innings that last over an hour. I don't have to worry about my team running out of time, there is always time as long as they have an out. With the constant running and scheduling of our lives it is refreshing to be able to say "I'm going to the ball game, I'll be back when it's over"
Some people don't like the number of games. I think it is one of baseball's greatest strengths. Teams play often and there is enough time for everything to sort itself out. Your teams whole season doesn't come down to a single elimination tournament. If your team is fortunate enough to make the playoffs, depending on the level, they will have a 3-5 game series , being allowed to lose at least once and still have a chance. During the season there is almost always a game on, or one being played close by, the fan doesn't have to wait a large amount of time in between games, cutting down the amount of fretting and "expert analysis" that fills the gaps.
I have already been to a couple of U of L games, being a trooper in the not-so-warm days of the early collegiate baseball season. Although these were a nice appetizer, I am ready for the main course, the big show, Major League Baseball. Opening Day is in a week, I guess I better get started on Part II.....