email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Baseball And Other Sports

I've been interested in baseball on and off my whole life.  I played Little League baseball at ages 9-12, but was poor at it.  Well, I was a small kid.  I got put at 2nd base (which was where you put the 2nd worst player - the worst got put in right field) because I was quick "enough" and could manage to throw the ball to 1st base.  I couldn't hit.  My recollection is that the bat seldom got off my shoulder (the one hit I recall was a "Texas Leaguer" just into the outfield where no one was and Dad went wild with joy that I actually made a hit).  So I was no natural at the game.

I did make an unassisted triple play though.  Bases loaded...  I somehow snagged a line drive over my head (jump high, stick glove up, ball finds glove),  and the runners didn't know it.  I stepped on 2nd base(force out) and tagged out the runner coming from 1st base.  My one claim to baseball fame and obviously I will never forget. 

I quit the next year.  Some kids had gotten so much bigger and stronger.  I couldn't even see a pitched ball, and it wasn't that I needed glasses!  They were just too fast for me. 

Forward to when I was 18, working in a Navy office before entering College.  I had had what passed as my "growth spurt" (reaching a whole 5'6" and 135 pounds), but I had played 3 years of golf, tennis, and soccer in High School.  So I had gotten a lot more coordinated and wiry.  All the offices had slow pitch softball teams in the Navy Base league, and the Directors were always begging for employees to join the team.  Well slow pitch softball is an entirely different game!  And I discovered I had a TALENT.  With a slow pitch, I could hit a ball wherever I darn well wanted to (between short and 3rd, between 1st and 2nd, over the right fielders head, etc).  And amazingly, those "splendid physical specimens of young Navy guys*) couldn't. 

Because they were all 6' tall, 180 lbs, and they just smashed the ball blindly...  Usually straight up, or to the shortstop who always caught the ball.  And the one thing I HAD gotten out of playing 2nd base in Little League was how to manage the game itself.  I played both 2nd base and catcher in the Navy softball league, and I instinctively understood where everyone should be.  I knew when to run out to catch a relay from the outfielders, and where to throw it afterwards.  And the same when playing catcher.  It just seemed so obvious.  That's probably the only reason I played 2nd base in little league.  THAT part, I understood.

* I'm not being sarcastic.  The actual Navy guys on the team were years beyond me in growth and strength at my same age.  They had to be to be accepted into the Navy.  Any 2 of them could have tossed me around like a dodgeball. 

I mention all this only to explain that I have suddenly started watching professional baseball again.  I watched pro football on and off; the Washington team had some good years.  It hard not to admire the skills of coaches like Vince Lombardi, George Allen and Joe Gibbs.  But I don't watch football with much understanding of the game.  Same with basketball.  Both are just chaotic, as far as I can tell. 

Baseball is different.  Each player has a position.  Each player has a responsibility to act individually, but for the good of the team.  Each player has an individual at-bat against an individual pitcher and not ONE of his teammates can help him in the least.  When yous are at bat, you are basically ALONE.  You, vs 9 guys in the field trying to catch anything you hit...

I LIKE that!  In baseball, you can like hitting, fielding, or pitching.  My brief moment of time in the game, I came to like hitting best.

So...  The Washington Nationals baseball team seem set to get into the playoffs as (possibly) the best team in baseball right now.  Its been a journey.  At the All Star break, they were about .500.  They are at .574 today.  Which means they are playing above .600 since. 

The Nationals are surely going to enter the playoffs.  And I am thrilled with that! 

So why do I care?  I care because they field spectacularly.  I care because they pitch wonderfully.  I care because they hit amazingly.  But mostly I care because they seem to be the savviest players on one team since before my time!  They always seem to make the right choices on the difficult plays.  I admire that most of all!

I've never had a home baseball team to like.  I left Boston just too young to care about the Red Sox.  We lived in Virginia, which has no professional baseball ream when I was 13.  We moved to MD too far away to like the Baltimore Orioles  (my friends did, I didn't).

And in Washington DC, there was no professional MLB team between 1969 and 2004.  So I'mnew to this Home-Team stuff.  I just like the Washington Nationals because they play REALLY GOOD!!!  And I admire THAT.

So I am LOVING this season for the Washington Nationals.


Megan said...

Well Mark - since you haven't got an Australian Rules competition in your area, I guess you have to settle for being a baseball fan. Enjoy!

Sydney, Australia

Mariodacatsmom said...

I personally prefer baseball over football. Our daughter and son-in-law have hosted a player in their home for the past two years for the Timber Rattlers (minor league off-shoot of the Brewers Baseball Team. She had her husband have learned so much about the game through going to all the games and having a player to answer questions. Their player went on to be All Star this year and was honored over the past weekend. I think baseball is so much easier to understand too.