Thursday, April 2, 2009

For Love Of The Game

With baseball season just days away, many of us are excited about the possibility of seeing the new Yankee Stadium and perhaps even Citifield.

Sometimes, though, it can feel daunting, as though the game itself takes a back seat to the team and to the notion that you are watching titans and not humans.

So what's one to do to get close to the game? To remember why it is we're attracted to the game in the first place?

Here are some things to do throughout the course of the season:

Take in a minor league game. Not just an AAA game, where you probably already know the names of all the prospects, but AA and A games as well, with players not out of their teenage years, getting their first taste of professional ball. Many minor league teams have their bullpens just beside the first or third base line--if you go on a cold or damp night, when no one else is around, walk down to those seats next to the bullpen and watch the relievers warm up. Also--it's a great place to get a foul ball.

Go to a college game in your area. Sure, aluminum is a bit different than wood and it's a little harder to find information on the players, but you never know--you may very well be seeing the next Derek Jeter or Joba Chamberlain...

Find some friends and find someone's park or backyard, use some old tennis balls and play a sandlot game of baseball. You don't have to play only nine innings; play until the sun goes down or there's a thunderstorm warning. Just make sure to wear a helmet if your pitcher actually, you know, pitches.

Take a glove and a ball and go to the park with a friend, brother, sister, parent, cousin, child... and just play catch. There is nothing more basic than having a catch. Turn it into a game with your own rules or just toss lazy fly balls. Doesn't really matter. The beauty of baseball is that as long as you have a ball, you can play catch.

The one thing it's so easy to forget over the course of the season is that nothing is bigger than the game. Nothing.

No player, no team, no stadium is bigger than the game.

The funny thing is, though, the game is at its biggest when its at its smallest. The game is the best, the most pure, when there are no bright lights or giant LCD monitors or $500 lower level tickets.

In the end, baseball's a game. That's what's at the heart of it, that's why we watch it, why we're fans.

So while you're busy marveling at the new Stadium, make sure you don't forget what this is all about in the first place.


  1. Correction. Baseball was a game. Now it's a business. At least that's how I feel every single year at this time, the cold indifference of a jilted lover almost. Baseball in general, and the Yankees in particular, spend each winter making me lose all interest, filling me with nothing but contempt for the greed that oozes from every pore...nothing, maybe, except a bit of nostalgia, too, for how much better it used to be (and how much better everything used to be, and 20 years from now I'll be saying today was so much better than the future-present). And yet...

    And yet, when those first spikes step out onto the grass, even though I know it's wrong, even though at the core of my being I know it's the wrong grass (the right grass is gone, the right seats are gone. Right Field, my childhood playground, is gone. Right field, where Al Kaline landed on my father and his father the day before father's day in 1963, a story I heard only a million times, often in right field itself. Right field, where my parents saw Chambliss and Jackson etch their heroic deeds in the record books. Right field, the long shadows, the imposing upper deck, my favorite corner in all the world of baseball, is gone. There is a new right field, but it's the wrong right field) and the wrong spikes (another player I don't want, another ego we don't need, yet another personnel blunder in the post-O'Neill era). Even though I know a year from now I'll go through the same cycle of cynicism and despair all over again, none of that is going to matter. I guess what I'm really trying to say is...

    Dammit, baseball, I can't stay mad at you! C'mere, you big lug! Is it opening day yet? I'll even learn to love the Interactive Yankeetainment Experience if I have to...just don't leave me again.

    But you will. Hopefully later in October than the last several years, but you will.

    But it doesn't matter now. Now it's April, and there is only possibility. Only the columns of zeroes in the standings and in the stat charts. Only the fresh grass. Only six more months with you, baseball, waiting for me when I come home from work each day. And that's fine with me.