Baseball is Better

Baseball is better. It simply is. It is the purest of sports. An individual sport within a team. Here are a few thoughts as to why baseball is better.

 

There are thinkers in baseball

 

Now I know in other sports that there are individuals who have great intellect. The fact that we so rarely see this displayed does not necessarily mean it does not exist. However, we need to look no further than the recent rash of suspensions meted out by Major League Baseball to see this reality.

 

On the same day that the NFL was discussing whether or not their players would submit to testing for PED’s baseball was banning one of it’s current superstars, Ryan Braun. While NFL players mull on whether or not they will restrict the use of HGH, Ryan was being sent to the house – minus 1/3 of his yearly salary.

 

While we may have been frustrated for the length of time that it has taken MLB to act – they have acted. Meanwhile, the NBA is still discussing their dress code and soccer is attempting to play soccer – on a baseball field.

 

Baseball is fiercely independent

 

There is a ferociousness to a batter standing in the batter’s box. As he awaits the pitch everything about him seems calm. There are few smiles, fewer words, and usually a simple wagging of the bat and grinding of the feet to announce his readiness. All the while, the pitcher stares at the catcher’s glove, a mere 60′ + away, as if the glove has plans to run and hide.

 

In that moment the reality of the fans fades into the distance and it is simply one man against another. A fastball against a 30 oz bat; Can the bat make it through the zone fast enough? A slider against a guessing hitter; Did the pitcher tip his hand in his haste to make the pitch?

 

These are moments that seem to last a lifetime. Seconds seem to drag by as a very private struggle is waged before a public that holds their bated breath.

 

In victory, there is defeat

 

The struggling closer is gassed. He is pitching for the 8th time in the last 10 days. The small tingle that started in his elbow has become a dull roar that fills his ears, drowning out the cries of the 43,000 fans in attendance. Two days ago he first felt that twinge, but hasn’t said anything for fear that the severity of the injury would keep him from finishing out this last series.

 

As he stares down from the mound, he simply has one thought – Win it now, there may never be another chance. Three times he raises his hand to his glove and crosses his fingers over the seams. Three times he raises his protesting arm behind his ear and sends his left foot plunging towards home plate. Three times he brings his arm down with a pop that sets off stars inside his head; 96, 98, 96. As the last strike blows by the helpless batter the crowd roars in appreciation. For a moment all is right, but as he heads toward the jubilant catcher he knows he may never experience this feeling again, for his arm has simply stopped working

 

In defeat, there is victory

 

The clubhouse is quiet. It seems all of the players are gone; headed home to wives and families, ready for a day that doesn’t involve another game for at least the next 48 hours. As a happy clubby whistles through the clubhouse he is surprised to see the star first baseman sitting at his locker.

 

His uniform is covered with clay and his mind seems to be lost somewhere else as he stares across the vacant room. Today marked day number 14 without a hit. He is better than this; he knows it, his teammates know this, management surely knows this or they never would have given him the contract before the year started, and yet he still struggles. The small white ball which he has been hitting all of his life is beginning to mock him.

 

As the clubby circles him cautiously, picking up dirty uniforms he wonders if he should say anything. Then, from across the room, a door opens. Out steps a young assistant from the video room. Cautiously he approaches the player and tells him that the video from that night is now available for him to view.

 

Pushing himself to his feet the man steps into the small, darkened room and begins to play and replay the video. Suddenly, he pauses; grabbing another remote he places another image from the year before on the screen, comparing it to the image from that night. Are his hands really that low? Could it really be that simple? A change begins to come over him as he plays and replays video of his hitting.

 

An hour later a rejuvenated man steps out of the clubhouse and heads toward his car. Yes, a long road lies ahead, but there is hope.

 

In uniformness, there is individuality

 

Every baseball used at a major league game is the same. White leather, red stitches, even the mud that is rubbed on them is taken from the same spot on the Mississippi River. Yet, you would never imagine that as you watch grown men go after a foul ball.

 

Over railings, dropping food, risking the safety of their loved ones; everything comes second to grabbing that small white ball. Why? Because forever they will be able to share how they came to possess that very special, very uniform, and terrifically unique; white, leather ball.

 

In passion, there is restraint

Yes, there have always been a few that took things too far, but a quick look at a baseball brawl proves this point. In just a few seconds 60 men will be nose-to-nose: tempers are hot, voices are raised, and yet very little harm is actually done.

 

A manager, incensed that his player was called out at home plate may use dirt to cover the plate, showing his disgust towards the umpire, yet walks off the field after the umpire attempts to throw his arm out of socket, signaling his dismissal from the game.

 

The batter, who exchanged words with the pitcher after a high breaking ball in the 3rd inning, yanks the same breaking ball down the left-field line in the 5th inning. His anger and passion sated he is excited with his self-discipline

 

Desire and preparation matter

 

He has 18 Golden Gloves. 18! Who else has ever dominated their position this way? Who has been on top of their game for 5 years? 10 years? Much less, 18 years?

 

He is no freak of nature; in fact his nickname was one that describes someone best suited for something besides baseball; The Professor. Greg Maddux simply prepared to beat you and then did his absolute level-best to accomplish this task. Maddux knew a batters tendencies, the accuracy of where his pitch would land, and he set out to win that individual struggle.

 

At 42 he won his last Gold Glove. He only stopped winning when he retired. Baseball is a game marked by desire and preparation. It is a beautiful thing!

 

The standard has not changed

 

In baseball a batter is still measured by his attempt to reach perfection. Every number reflects how far he is from achieving that goal. In no other sport are failures used to describe success as it is with baseball.

 

The batter is measured against 1.000 and the pitcher is measured against 0.00. In basketball we tell how many rebounds a player made without pointing out the total possible rebounds. In football we measure how far a man runs without including the potential for every run.

 

Baseball is unique, in that every stat is measured against the possibility of perfection. We see this as we grow engrossed in following a batter whose average continue to creep higher and higher. As a pitcher ERA continues to drop we hold our breath every time a runner reaches base. Whether a ball in played is ruled an error or a hit is sometimes the difference in achieving a lifetime goal

 

Baseball is better

 

Make your case.

 

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2 thoughts on “Baseball is Better

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