Monday, April 4, 2016

Play Ball - The Boys of Summer are Back

Ahh, baseball.

Today, hope springs eternal as the Boys of Sumer return to the parks and the diamonds and bring us another season of memories. Baseball is America's game, and despite many people who have lamented the fading of it in our consciousness - especially as the National Football League dominates headlines (not always in a good way) - baseball is thriving in the United States and around the world. It is "a nineteenth-century pastoral game" that represents so much goodness. No one said it better than James Earl Jones in the mythical story of Field of Dreams.

Ray, people will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. "Of course, we won't mind if you have a look around," you'll say. "It's only twenty dollars per person." They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

Baseball is an easygoing game with an understated intensity. In what other sport can a 1-0 pitchers duel with zero offense be as exciting and compelling as a homerun derby or a game filled with hit after hit of small ball. Baseball is a game that can be listened to on the radio for all the beauty of the commentary. It's a game you watch on the edge of your seat, but can also sit back and chat with fellow fans in the interim. It contains the most challenging and arguably impossible act in all of sports - hitting a ball coming at you at 95 mph. It is a game and contest in which measurements are absolutely pristine in their specificity. The bases have to be 90 feet apart, not 89 or 91. One less foot and a fielder could never throw out a runner. One foot more and a batter would could never reach base in time. 60 feet 6 inches is the only distance that gives both pitchers and hitters an even chance. A matter of inches would change everything. It's beauty is in its precision.

In the spirit of baseball, I'll leave you with the inimicable wisdom of George Carlin and his comparison of baseball and football. "Safe at home. I want to be safe at home."

Play Ball.

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