Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

"Don't tell me about the world. Not today. It's springtime and they're knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball." ~Pete Hamill

Ahhh. It's been cold; it's been dark; it's been long; and now it's over. The off-season, and by association winter, ends today. Of course, winter's not really over - I can go outside and figure that out quickly. But the cold, dark nothingness of baseball-lessness is finally over.

I spent the weekend doing some baseball-related things that really brightened my mood. I took my son shopping for a new bat (didn't buy one - he's still deciding), and we watched "Everybody's Hero" (OK movie - really little kids would probably like it). And I followed the reports of spring training on the web. Getting ready for a new baseball season, whether it is the pros or youth-ball, makes me almost giddy.

Now I have a healthy respect for other sports. I watch, understand, and enjoy football, but it doesn't have my heart. I have a great time whenever I attend Wild games. Basketball - well, let's just say it's not for me. And since both my boys wrestle, I do enjoy watching that.

But I love baseball. And there are several reasons:

It's human. There are no clocks. There are no chains. There is no instant-replay (yet - and there better not ever be). Each event requires a decision by a human umpire. Ball or strike? Pitch or balk? Fair or foul? Even with a routine grounder, the ball can beat the baserunner to first by 40 feet, but he's not out until the umpire calls him out. Even when I disagree with an umpire, I wouldn't have it any other way.

It's relaxed. Another benefit of no clock is that there's no equivalent of a play clock. I believe there is some rule that states that the pitcher must throw a pitch within 12 second of becoming set, but I don't think there's one about when he has to become set. So the game takes as long as it takes, and it's done when it's done. And if you want to, you have plenty of time to write down everything that happens. Which is very cool.

It's easy. From my favorite movie: "A good friend of mine used to say, ‘This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.' Think about that for a while." ~ Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh.

It's hard. The cliché is that there is nothing harder to do in all of sports than hit a round ball with a round bat. And I believe it. But it's also got to be hard to throw a 90 mph pitch with enough precision to prevent the hitter from hitting it. And if someone does hit it, diving all over the place or crashing into walls can't be a walk in the park.

It's complicated. For starters, there are 23 ways to get to first base. And every rule seems to have at least two "excepts" or "unlesses". How cool is it that a foul ball is a strike, unless the batter has two strikes already, in which case it's just a foul ball, unless it's a foul tip to the catcher's glove, in which case it's a strikeout, except if the catcher drops it. You'd better keep up.

It's different. Most other team games have a goal that requires defending, so they're all basically the same - one team tries to take the ball/puck to the opponent's goal, and the other team tries to stop them. Ho hum. Not so with baseball. "Baseball is the only major sport that appears backwards in a mirror." ~George Carlin

What's not to love? And I am so ready for it to start.


Twins Sisters said...

I loved what you wrote. One of the best things is that there is no clock. Sometimes one half of an inning is over in 5 pitches and sometimes it can take 30! Depends on how quick those 3 outs are made. I remember in Fever Pitch when Drew Barrymore was at the the Red Sox home opener with Jimmy Fallon and she asked him what time the game was over. He replied, "It isn't like a Broadway musical."


L said...

There is most definitely nothing to NOT love about baseball. I agree with Becca, I love the no clock, even when games take 5 hours.