Ah! Baseball!It’s been a long, cold winter, but spring is upon us and with spring comes America’s first sports love—Baseball. Football season was fun and basketball and hockey continue, but now Baseball is back, and I’m thrilled. It’s nice to see 22 men battle to take the pigskin down the field and across the goal line, but for me, there’s nothing like baseball. And the steroid problem notwithstanding, we truly live in the golden age of the sport.
Baseball is not just the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees battling it out in the American League, or the Cardinals and the Cubs fighting over the Central Division in the senior league. It’s about the minor leagues which have never drawn larger crowds than they do today. (Several minor league teams draw more than a million in attendance each year, even though theirs is a truncated schedule.) It’s about eight and nine year olds hitting the ball off a tee and thirteen year olds playing on a full size field for the first time. It’s about Little League, Babe Ruth and Legion leagues. It’s about high school and college ball, as well as leagues for seniors. It’s about baseball’s offspring, softball for boys and girls, men and women of all ages.
Baseball is the sport for all ages when it comes to participation, when it comes to attending, and when it comes to watching year in and year out. The Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, now coming to a close, draw tens of thousands of fans from across the nation in anticipation of the race for the World Series.
Americans just can’t get enough of baseball. Their children learn early how to hit a sphere with a round bat thrown at lightening speed. Then they go to their own softball or baseball game. After that they go home and watch baseball on TV. And then they go out to see their favorite professional team. It’s in the blood, it’s part of America as no other sport is or ever will be.
Physicists say that the hardest thing in any sport is hitting an 85 mile-per-hour curve ball and turning a double play. I’m no physicist, but there’s no doubt it’s a difficult game. I’ve explained the basics of football to someone from Europe, but when I tried to explain baseball, it wasn’t so easy. But once you understand it, there is no other sport in its league.
It’s a thrill to see the quarterback throw a winning touchdown pass with the clock running out, but for me it doesn’t compare with the drama I witnessed when the Cardinals battled the Mets for the NLCS Championship in 2006. It was the 7th and deciding game. A rookie fill-in closer, Adam Wainwright, was on the mound. He had gotten two outs, but allowed two men on base. The Cardinals long time nemesis, Carlos Beltran, was at the plate with two outs and two strikes. A hit would win the game and send the Mets to the Series. An out would send the Cards to the Series. Ah. Baseball!