Saturday, August 18, 2018

10 Reasons Why I Love Watching Baseball

This one's just for fun. There's no spiritual lesson or observation here, except this: every good gift comes from God. I think baseball is one of those. At least it is to me.

A familiar sight: J.D. Martinez praising God upon
rounding the bases after hitting a home run.
I’m making a confession: I love watching baseball. I have watched more this year than any other season in my life, primarily for three reasons: 1.) My favorite team, the Red Sox, are absolutely dominating Major League Baseball; 2.) I’ve got with our (minimal) cable package; and 3.) I had a sabbatical this summer that allowed me time to watch. There are a handful of things that cause me to relax and feel happy as soon as I start. Baseball is one of those things. It doesn’t matter if it’s on TV or live, the effect is the same. So I’ve been wondering, “Why do I love it so much?” On this short post, I’m going to attempt to make a list.
1. I so admire the skill it takes to play the game well. Whether it’s a high school game or the Sox, these athletes are just different from most others. They’re not the fastest, tallest, or strongest athletes in sports. But they are so specialized with certain skills, and could be among the smartest or quickest thinkers in the sports world. I was not a very good baseball player (probably due to that “smartest” thing), so that makes me even more impressed with these talented athletes.
2. It’s a thinker’s game. The rules are many and the strategy is multi-faceted. In many ways, it’s like chess with real people. It’s not just the coaches who must do most of the thinking. One small mental lapse from one player can cost the whole team a game. And often does. And it’s the only sport I know that keeps record of errors!
Who encapsulates class and courage more than Jackie?
3. There is an incredible appreciation for history and tradition. I love that the statistics are riddled with players from every decade from the last one-hundred-plus years. Very little rules have changed. The organ is the same. The uniforms are the same (including metal spikes). The bats are made of wood (I wish this were the case with all ages!). While watching I feel somehow connected with generations past.
4. It’s a game that is diverse. Baseball is no respecter of persons. You can be born in poverty in the Dominican Republic or be from a wealthy family in California. It’s the American pastime, but they play it from Japan to Cuba. I read that about 30% of MLB players were born outside the USA. You can be huge or diminutive in size. I love the diversity. Jackie Robinson. ‘Nuff said.
5. It’s a game that requires courage. You stand in the way of a hard ball coming at you at 100 mph. You sometimes have to dive to attempt a catch or slide head-first. The fights are few, but real. Please forgive me, but I love this part. There is a code of respect that demands repayment for those who do something dirty. Come in cleats up on a second baseman, and expect to get beaned when you get in the batter’s box. Then expect retaliation. And when the benches clear, it gets crazy! It’s a man’s world where pride and honor matter.
6. It offers a break from the usual stressors of life. There is just very little politics or cultural rot that spoils the experience. It occasionally happens, but for the most part people behave because they seem to be there to escape the societal noise, too. There seems to be fewer politically active players using their platform to make their causes known. I really don’t want to know about all their causes. I just want to watch baseball. I hope this doesn’t change.
7. It’s not as intense as other sports. Believe me, I love football. Grew up in a football coach’s home, played it for 13 years of my life, and have coached myself. But football is not relaxing to watch (or play). Basketball seems to stay intense the whole game—and especially the last two minutes (which takes a half-an-hour). But baseball has spurts of intense play and moments of incredible pressure interspersed with long periods of deliberate strategy and intermission. You can have ongoing conversations with others during a game. You can enjoy a hotdog, a pretzel, and eat a whole bag of peanuts, all while sitting down and without spilling your drink.
8. It’s like art marrying science. I almost want to call it beauty in motion. Especially at the professional level; the players catch, throw, and swing with such precision and finesse. They make plays together like a symphony. The mathematical unlikelihood of hitting a small, spinning, spherical baseball moving at 100 mph with a small cylindrical bat into a limited area of play without any of the nine opponents catching the ball…is just amazing in itself. And many players average getting a hit between 20 and 30 percent of the time (some even more)!
9. It is a study on persistence and consistency over time. You can have three terrible at-bats, but the fourth might be a home run. Then you can get in a slump for a few games followed by a hitting streak. Unlike football where you can’t really afford to lose more than one or two games (if that many when you’re in the SEC!), you can lose a lot of games, but if you consistently win more than you lose, you’re in good shape for the playoffs. It really is about who can do the best over the long-haul. A lot like life!
10. Baseball players are just cool. They seem so composed and unflappable. They will accomplish some seemingly impossible athletic feat and just carry on afterward with maybe a quick smile to a teammate. Awesome. I wish I could be so cool!