The presence of the spring season is starting to take root. The snow is melting in the northern states, and the smell of freshly cut grass is starting to take over the air in the south. This means one thing, and one thing only: It's almost time for baseball season.
For many, baseball isn’t as big a sport as football or basketball. To others, baseball is a national pastime that cannot be taken lightly. I stand on the latter side as baseball, to me, is a sanctuary and shall never be taken for anything less. I come from a family of bat swingers, as my two older sisters were beasts on the playing field, and there was no way they were going to let me b the one who wasn’t any good in the family. I started throwing balls before I could fully grip them in my hand, and I was wearing a baseball glove as early as fourteen months old.
A lot of people have never tried to play the game and don’t want anything to do with the game. However, there are us die-hards that rarely miss a game, and when we do, we are online looking for box scores to see how our favorite athletes are doing and if our team is winning.
For me, it’s bigger than the game. It’s the fellowship, the smell of hot dogs cooking in the background, the stat geeks, the bleacher bums, the second-guessers, the former pitchers, the memorabilia collectors and all of those people who just flat-out love the game.
Baseball is a game without a clock. It can last as long as you can keep the ball in play. Sometimes, games may go on for four and even five hours, and you don’t really notice it, because you are so tuned in.
Baseball creates pioneers like Jackie Robinson, Satchel Page, Josh Gibson, and Willie Mays. Baseball also creates legends like George Herman Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Cy Young. Baseball has been known to create villains as well (Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, and Rickey Henderson). Regardless of how you feel about any of these guys, you would pay to watch them all play, hero or villain.
See, baseball is about capturing the moment, and regardless of how you may feel about the sport, it is a compilation of numbers that all have a meaning that tie it to history. I remember when Derek Jeter turned on a hanging curveball and knocked it over the left-field wall at Yankee Stadium for his 3,000th hit. While he was trotting around the bases celebrating, the announcer hits us with a trivia question: Who are the four shortstops to reach 3,000 hits?
Baseball is at its best when past and present click together seamlessly, like James Brown samples and present-day music. I think this is the biggest reason there is a different tenor of outrage in baseball when star players are caught or admit to using performance-enhancing drugs.
If you think about it, you don’t get that strong of an outcry for the steroid era in any other sport. Baseball’s numbers are what make it great. People are out there chasing ghosts (numbers), and the only thing that is relevant is surpassing the legends and cementing your own identity as a superstar.
Oh, and by the way, if you were wondering the answer to the question about the four shortstops, the answer is Honus Wagner, Robin Yount, Cal Ripken Jr., and Derek Jeter. Pretty good company, if you think about it.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!
Color Commentator for Time Warner Cable Sports Network NC/SC/OH and NCCU Sports Network. Washed up athlete who used to ball, now I write and call.