Monday, March 29, 2004

It has arrived, the joke Major League Baseball is calling opening day, the Yankees playing the Devil Rays in Japan. Game comes on at 4 AM Tuesday morning on ESPN here in Texas. First of all, who in their right mind is going to wake up and watch it other than Yankee fans? I mean Tampa Bay...talk about a cake walk for the marketing power of the Yankees in Japan...let's have them play the worst team in the league. That and let's open the season in Japan. What's up with that? Baseball opening day should be in the home ballpark of one of the teams playing, not halfway around the globe in front of fans who could give a rip about either team. Oh wait, it's the Yankees and they have market power in Japan with Matsui. It is all to contrived for me, and I think it sucks. Open in the Stadium with the history of the "House that Ruth Built", where the ghosts of DiMaggio, Gerhig, Ruth, Maris, Mantle and Munson haunt the field. Don't make a joke of opening day and this is exactly what Selig and company are doing. Then again, Selig has made a joke of a lot of things in the game: that tie in the All Star game, inter-league play, the Brewers, etc. For what's it worth, I could care less if you can sell a hundred thousand "sushi dogs" with nice warm saki. Give me a hot dog or a Polish Sausage and some luke warm, flat, watered down beer. Let Yankee fan and Devil Ray fan watch their teams open instead of catching the hilights on sports center when they wake up. This coming from a Red Sox fan. More on the Red Sox later this week when the roster is set.

Baseball is a game that I love, maybe to a detriment to my well being. It is something that is just in my blood. Growing up, I was never more comfortable doing anything as I was playing ball, talking ball, or watching ball. I don't want to brag, but all I need is two innings watching a pitcher and I can tell what pitch he's throwing if he is tipping them (which a lot of young pitchers do without knowing). This is especially easy on fastballs, two head nods...once for the pitch, second for location. It's the second on that give it away, because every other pitch, location is pretty much a given based on the break of the ball. Almost every young pitcher does it.

There is something about a sunny day and a ballgame. Major league baseball is forgetting this in light of bright lights, prime time and tv contracts. There was a time when games were mostly played in the afternoon. Kids could actually watch their favorite players in action for a whole game and not a hilight clip on ESPN. I think MLB should go back to when it was a game and the afternoons of spring, summer, and fall consumed the minds of young children. Even when I was younger, I remember my friends and I all coming down with a one day sickness and missing school just to stay home and watch the Red Sox openers if they fell during the week. Always these games were 1 pm starts. It did us no good to go to school and get out at 3 and rush home to catch Lee Smith stormiing out of the bullpen to close it down, we missed the game. Don't get me wrong, school is very important, but I think a lot can be learned about life and the need to stop and enjoy a simple pleasure. Never let schooling interfere with one's education.

What's special about baseball? Well simply, the game ends with everyone getting a fair shake. Same number of chances to bat and pitch, no running out the clock, no sitting on a lead, no taking it easy. All 9 innings (or more)(or 4.5 if it rains) must be finished before a winner is determined. Football, basketball, hockey...all involve the ability to sit on a lead, milk the clock, and not play the game full tilt at 100% to determine a winner. You don't get that in baseball. In baseball you have the epitome of the human athletic experience. The pitcher vs. the hitter. Two men trying out perform each other in a struggle of strength, skill and wisdom. Hit the round ball with the round bat, it is the toughest thing to do in sport and physics proves this. Yet hitting the ball, laying good wood on it and that feeling of contact on the sweet spot, that instant you hear the ball strike the bat and feel now virbation in the bat, no wasted energy. It is a feeling of satisfaction unlike is found in most other sports. Even when fouling off a fastball, and maybe that slight smell of burnt wood in the air from the friction between the bat and ball. The smell of fresh cut grass, leather and glove oil, resin, pine tar, hot dogs and a plethora of foods. The ability to sit down in Fenway Park with 35,000 strangers and all be friends (except for those fool swho drove up from the Bronx and mugged a scalper for their tickets). There is nothing like it.

So for better or for worse, baseball is my poison, a vice if you will, an addiction that is so far in my blood that it will take a lifetime and eternity after that to get it out. I don't agree with opening the year overseas, but the season is here. This year, the Red Sox win it all..this year the curse is reversed. This year...is going to be special, it's going to be awesome.

PLAY BALL!

"Just a reminder fans about "Die Hard Night" coming up at the stadium: free admission to anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won a pennant." -Harry Doyle (aka Bob Uecker in Major League as the voice of the Indains)

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