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Thursday, January 22, 2015


              The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love. ~Bryant Gumbel, 1981

Football. Basketball. Soccer. Lots of sports in the headlines right now. Never a lack of something to watch for your average sports fan. It's only natural we turn off ESPN to watch the 18-hour Ken Burns documentary If you haven't seen it, and you're missing the crack of the bat and the comfort of a juicy hot dog, search it out on Netflix now.

Before I met my husband, I barely knew a thing about baseball. Three strikes, you're out. That was about the extent of my knowledge. But with marriage, comes appreciation for other passions. Admittedly, I was mostly impressed with how my boyfriend (future husband) donned a baseball uniform. (Our early dates consisted of a few town team games.) Now, twenty years later, I can honestly say I've grown quite a fondness and fascination for the past-time.

Strategy is still a bit beyond me. I get there's some psychology, but usually I need to ask a bunch of pesky questions to the expert in the room. Shifts. Pitches. Suicides squeezes–whatever that really means. Once in a while, I'll surprise Doug with a statement like, "he's probably gonna throw a sinker, huh?" Usually though, I'm fairly clueless. HOWEVER...I'm not too bad at identifying heros. And I do believe hero-spotting is one of the most fun parts of this game. Ask any kid.

Much of baseball is the same story. But the story is great. And it never gets old. An unlikely kid from a common family becomes a baseball legend. The hapless team with an unsavory history rises to the top. Fill in the blanks with your favorite player/team. Babe Ruth. Lou Gehrig. Joe DiMaggio. Jackie Robinson. The St. Louis Cardinals. The Brooklyn Dodgers. I'm not allowed to give space to any other New York baseball teams. Except of course, the Giants and the Mets. Anyway...

Ted Williams once said:

"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer."

One journalist noted that perhaps baseball is really more about losing. I've given some thought about that statement. While I get that the long season can involve scores of losses and that a batting average includes a heckuva lot of strike-outs, I'm not sure I agree the game has more to do about losing. I think the game is about democracy and opportunity. Once Jackie Robinson began to break the color barrier, reflecting an overdue shift in our nation's sentiment, baseball seemed to carry on its roots as being the the great equalizer...granted this didn't happen overnight. But eventually, it did happen.

It seems everyone knows of someone who had their shot in the majors. The game offers individuals, with any background, opportunities.  And the game never runs short on hope. Down by ten runs in the bottom of the ninth? No problem! There's an entire half an inning left. And guess what? No time clock! The game might go past midnight...or for three more days. And the faithful who watched the entire game would wear the honorary badge for not missing one single play or nuance. These stories tend to brighten spirits in the room when discussion eventually magnets How can they not, with themes of opportunity and hope?

Three months until opening season. Enough time has now passed since the World Series as I watched the excitement bubble in my diehard Royals fan–only to be heartbroken in the bottom of the ninth on the seventh game. It's time to kindle hope and begin the search for more heros.

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