Batter Up! Play Ball!
It’s that time of year again. The baseball season has begun, so it must be spring.
My family loves baseball. My father was a Yankee fan through and through. That tradition has been passed along through my brother, Dennis, and his two children, Christian and Tracy.
When I arrived at Christian’s home in Maine a couple of summers ago, he was watching a Yankees-Red Sox game on TV. Naturally, a huge brawl broke out. Chris grinned and said, “Watch, I’ll bet Tracy will be calling any minute now.” Less than a minute later, Tracy called Chris on his cell phone to ascertain whether he was indeed watching the fight and, presumably, the game that surrounded it.
I was a rabid Yankee fan as a child. My first hero was first baseman Joe Pepitone, #25. I even had a doll named after him. After I learned to read, I became a great admirer of a first baseman from an earlier era, Lou Gehrig, #4. I was thrilled when we got cable TV in northeastern Pennsylvania: I watched almost all of the Yankee games on WPIX, with commentary by Phil Rizzuto (former Yankee shortstop, #10).
My son, Jonathan, has a similar attachment to the Toronto Blue Jays. When we lived in Canada it was easy to follow the Jays, because their games are broadcast nationally several times a week. We even let him stay up late to watch the Jays win their two World Series championships. When we moved to the USA, Jonathan missed his Blue Jays. Thank heavens for the Internet. He can keep up with Blue Jay happenings on a daily basis even if he can’t watch them play very often.
My other son, Joshua, is becoming a fan of the Washington Nationals. He’s really excited because there is a new TV station in the area that is broadcasting most of their games. When I got home from work yesterday he was sprawled on the floor, watching the Nationals game. Unfortunately, they lost that one to the Astros in the bottom of the 12th inning. The home opener this year will not be quite as memorable as last year's inaugural home opener. President Bush threw out the ceremonial first ball on that occasion. This year, we have to settle for Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Now, it’s time for a confession: I don’t pay much attention to Major League Baseball anymore. GASP! I still haven’t recovered from the disappointment of the 1994 season-ending strike. I still love the game of baseball, but I don’t like the way the Major Leagues operate. The greed and ongoing mind-games of both players and owners sicken me. I keep hoping the current corrupt, thoroughly inequitable situation will collapse so that a new league can rise in its place.
For the time being, I get my satisfaction, whenever possible, from watching minor league games. Yes, the minor leagues are part of an overall rotten system, but there’s still a sense of purity and innocence in the air when these young guys play. They’re not as skilled as their major league counterparts, but they play with gusto. I also admire those who coach and manage these young players. They patiently help the youngsters develop fundamental skills, they correct errors and bad habits, and they help their most talented charges rise to the top and realize their dreams. If you want to take in real baseball, skip the prima donnas in the major leagues and head out, instead, to a local minor league ballpark.