Baseball: A Romance

The sport of baseball is a time machine.

Adult athletes making millions of dollars per year are turned back into kids, having fun after the first pitch is thrown. Fans who have mortgages and business meetings suspend the outside world for a while and focus on a game. Young sons and daughters have the best day of their lives. Dads have their own best days, watching their kids.

Everyone forgets about the outside world. 

The smells, sounds, and sights of a ballpark bring back memories that are all the more vivid because of the crack of a bat and the cheers and boos focused on the players and the umps, the latter having more than their fair share of the boos.

Why does a game inspire so much fervent adoration amongst its fans, but is conversely derided by those who don’t take the time to appreciate it?

Pace of Play

The longest professional baseball game ever played was eight hours and six minutes long. That game took place in 1984 over the span of two days and 25 innings, with the Chicago White Sox winning 7-6 over the Milwaukee Brewers. Thankfully, that is not a typical game.

However, before the implementation of the pitch clock in the 2023 season, major league baseball games averaged three hours and four minutes in length. Since the pitch clock that time has dropped to two hours and forty minutes.

But the addition of the pitch clock has dulled some of the nuances, shifting the focus to casual fans who whine about the slow speed of the game. Those fans just don’t understand the magic. The pace is what makes the game observable. At any moment the game can shift, causing excitement and suspense. When those moments do not occur, the viewing experience is casual. You can keep the score, participate in fan trivia, or break the shells of some peanuts. It is a relaxed atmosphere with the potential for emotional outbursts. 

The anticipation provided by the pace of play is what makes the game engrossing, and encourages so many fans to deep dive into the statistics and stratagem of the game.

The Rise of the Underdog

The greatest players in the world routinely fail seven out of ten times when it comes to batting in baseball. What other sport has that same level of failure amongst its best and brightest?

The reason why this feature of baseball is important is that it allows one swing to completely change the narrative, at any moment. When that is possible, anyone has the opportunity to be the hero, even the underdogs.

While professional baseball has its inequities, the fundamentals of the game are untouched by the prices paid to anyone. The washed-up backup catcher can hit a home run to win the game at any moment. The start outfielder can drop the ball that will lose the game.

Baseball is egalitarian in the fact that everyone has the opportunity to improve or fail. The ball bounces the same for every individual. 

Work Ethic Wins

While there is no denying that there are individuals who are born athletically gifted and naturally excel at skills important to baseball, the heroes of baseball are the guys who are gritty and have a blue-collar work ethic. The guys who will dive into the crowd after a foul ball, or run out an infield hit. Those are the guys who weren’t scouted by 32 teams while in high school. They maybe had to start at the Junior College level or walk on to their college team, just to get a chance to reach the big leagues.

And the fact that they had to fight and work harder than anyone else so that they could realize their dreams, isn’t what makes us cheer for them.

Their love for a game is what makes us relate to them. Their willingness to do more than anyone else so that they can continue to play the game of baseball is what endears them to the masses.

Most little boys grew up dreaming of playing in the big leagues. Most men still have fantasies of playing the game they love, even when that time has long since passed.

Baseball inspires the kid in us all to forget the stress and expectations of life. To focus on play instead of progress reports, if only for nine innings. Or sometimes, a bit more. 

45230cookie-checkBaseball: A Romance

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