The baseball season opens this weekend, and so with it coverage on Press Pros. So forget about the groundhog in Pennsylvania. Spring is a state of mind.
I really can’t apologize for my bias towards baseball. If I had never played an inning in my life…I still would feel this way. And here’s why.
Baseball starts this weekend with the opening of the NCAA season, and coverage of the Buckeyes and Dayton Flyers here on Press Pros, and with it (at least to me) a bit of sanity to the culture of thought that if everyone gets treated the same…we can all be just alike.
There’s a lot of reasons why I like baseball better than the other sports.
One, it’s the only game I really COULD play. I liked football, but wasn’t interested enough to actually go out. I was a great shooter in basketball, but couldn’t run. Our coach at Piqua, Dave Zeller, once told me that if I could outrun him to the mid-court line and back I could be on the team. If he outran me I had to be manager. He beat me by three steps.
Two, the uniforms are just better, white for home and gray on the road…even though that business of pants draggin’ the ground and ironing the bill of your hat until it’s flat is an abomination. I’m a traditionalist.
Three, baseball smells better. There’s nothing better than the aroma of a new glove out of the box…or a new pearl (baseball) fresh out of its wrapper. Compare that to the vile vinegar smell of hockey and football pads in a stuffy locker room.
It’s about scent of Topps bubble gum on the baseball cards of my youth – heroes with pictures you can actually recognize (compare to today’s) and stats on the back that we memorized. We couldn’t remember multiplication tables, but we knew Vada Pinson’s batting average from the year before.
Four, it’s outside, plenty of room, and usually in daylight, which lends to warm spring days (except in Ohio) and better photography – f5.6 and 1/1000th of a second. No dark gyms with awful lights and kids running past you every 10 seconds to the concession stand.
To that business about cultural homogenization, it’s a team sport, yes, but it highlights the player for his ability to do what he does…or can’t do. It’s about the worst kid in my neighborhood being sent to right field…because that was where he would do the least damage to the team.
There’s been a lot of softening in baseball that I don’t like – the never-ending attempt to make it absolutely risk-free. You can’t play hard anymore – no breaking up the double play, or running into the catcher at home plate. You can’t throw inside if you’re a pitcher to intimidate hitters and protect yourself.
You can’t pitch three days in a row, or even throw 125 pitches if that’s what it takes to win a game. No, the National Federation of fools who never played baseball have ruled that it’s not safe for young, immature arms. I’ve got news for the old men who claim to know best…the only way young arms mature and get strong is to throw.
To the contrary, if you’re a high school pitcher who throws 90 miles per hour you can stand out there and intimidate all you want…’cause no one’s gonna’ hit you and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I love that, and I truly expect that someday soon the rules will prohibit pitchers that are unhitable to be limited to a number of outs…so it’s fair for the other team. It’s coming, because there’s more and more pitchers who are throwing that hard; or throwing a breaking pitch that no one can hit. It’s a shame, but the old men will have their way.
I don’t like the designated hitter rule. Never have.
I don’t like the re-entry rule. If you can play, you play. If they pinch hit for you…you’re done. I call it ‘socialized’ baseball!
I don’t like aluminum bats. They represent an unfair advantage for hitters, they’re dangerous to pitchers, and they’re really not cost-saving. A good one is $400, and they still break. I like the ‘crack’ of a wood bat against a leather ball. I don’t like ‘ping’, and bat handle base hits that should be an out!
I prefer baseball because there is no clock. You simply play ’til you win.
And I like it because like my old coach, Jim Hardman, used to say…even when you can’t play anymore you can still enjoy playing catch with the kids in the backyard. You can still enjoy the smell of a new Rawlings fresh out of the box!
It’s a new season with new chances – new opportunities. It’s about renewal.
My friend Andy Johnson gets the opportunity to be a head coach – at Covington. It’s a big deal for him because he’s a baseball kid. He’s a grown man, you understand, with a wife and job…but he’s still a baseball kid. We’ll see if he’s blessed with baseball players.
It all starts this weekend, in Florida, where the Buckeyes will be out to prove they’re better than 22-34 (last year’s record). You can read about it on Press Pros. It’s a lot expense…it’s a lot of work. But I don’t mind. I have a new Rawlings this spring…and all the new baseballs I can possibly smell. Hardman was right. I’m 66 years old in a couple of weeks, and I’m still a baseball kid.
Something good is coming your way. Play ball!