Balls, Bats and Bucks

Baseball season starts in less than a week.  That means leisurely days (or, more likely, nights) at the ball park with a hot dog in one hand, a beer in the other, and, if you’re like me, a scorecard on your lap.  It also means being a part of what we have come to call the Great American Pastime, witnessing feats of sometimes supernatural athleticism and, if you’re lucky, achievements of monumental importance.  For me, as a Met fan, Johan Santana’s 2012 no-hitter comes to mind.

But something troubles me about the game, and at times, it makes me feel like I would be better off just forgetting about baseball altogether.  But then what would my wife and I listen to as we puttered around the kitchen on many a summer night with the day’s heat then dissipating and our conversations turning to who is hitting what and why isn’t he doing better.  In any event, my concerns are no different from those that a lot of other people now have, and, probably have had since the inception of modern baseball: overpriced players, overpriced tickets, interminably long games, lackadaisical play, too many strikeouts, and ballparks that are called PETCO Park and U.S. Cellular Field.

But I do wish things were different.  For example, I wish that a player that you never heard of (assuming you follow baseball, of course) did not make millions of dollars each year where the average joe makes a fraction of that and then has to suffer the indignity of having to pay a part of that player’s salary if he or she wanted to watch him in-person, and increasingly, on a screen.  I also wish that baseball organizations were less concerned about their bottom line and more about what could be done to make the game more fan-friendly (hint: shrinking the confines of a ballpark so the home team can hit more home runs is not one of them); the two, it seems to me, never appear compatible in theory or in practice.

Despite all this, I think the integrity of the game is still intact.  Players still play because they love being on the field and not because its just a way to make a lot of money without really working (another great American pastime).  Managers still get peeved when players don’t hustle to first base on a sure-out grounder.  And fans still recognize and respect players who play the game with passion and heart rather than those who simply show up to collect a paycheck.  So I look forward to the baseball season.  At the very least, it will allow me to realize a dream I have long had: taking my son to his very first baseball game.

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