Why Baseball?

I am passionate about baseball. I love the game. I love the timelessness of going to a game. I see in the game important metaphors for improving daily life. Some of those, like embracing failure, can be extremely helpful in healing people caught up in shame (never feeling good enough, never measuring up, not able to please so-and- so). Hitting safely, as we’ve noted, three times out of ten would likely land the person a Major League contract, perhaps even a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, the person would have failed more than twice as many times! And, to go from a .250 hitter to a .300 hitter, takes just one more hit per week (going 1 for 20). Baseball is about progress, not perfection. Baseball is the only sport where the person scores, not the ball or object. There is no clock timing periods of play. The playing surface is shared, not fought over. It takes all nine players – plus those in the dugout and in the bullpen – to band together, encourage one another, and win as a team.

So, quoting from my book (page 87), here’s “why baseball:”

During times of war, from fighting with each other during the Civil War to fighting countries around the world, we have played baseball. When cities have been torn apart by racial and social divide, we have played baseball. When we have faced terrible political or economic challenges, we have played baseball. Times of natural disaster or terrorist attacks have not kept us from playing baseball. Refusing to let chaos reign, bringing some measure of sanity and control back to our lives, we have turned to baseball to calm our troubled souls. Baseball has brought us together in ways that nothing else could. There is something special about a country swinging for the fences. We show up. Dig into the tasks at hand. Suck less. We never get it quite right. We’re never perfect. But we’re there, together. All our crazy rituals (wearing special shirts, filling out score sheets, drawing marks in the dirt, readjusting batting gloves after every pitch, tapping our bats with chicken bones) come together to create meaning for us. We are, in some small measure, in control of our lives or at least responsible for them, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment. So, we’ve got this. We’re okay. Batter up! Play ball!

Look at stories in the news about players and teams making headlines. I can think of a few just this week. The amazing acrobatics and athleticism of the Angel’s players Simmons and Kinsler turning a magnificent double play. Mookie Betts who just keeps hitting home runs in his lead-off position for the amazing Boston Red Sox – followed closely by the D-backs of Arizona for “hot team.” Snow and cold weather doesn’t seem to slow down Harper and his powerful hitting.

Most impressive, this past week, might be the series in Puerto Rico between the Twins and Indians. In a place where much of the country is still devastated by last year’s hurricane, where electricity is yet to be fully restored, people have left the island in droves, schools are struggling…and so much more…fans turned out for baseball. The Twins and Indians listed at least seven relief agencies that fans could support and drew attention to the fact that so much of the island is in need of rebuilding. It was a tribute to “why baseball” in the lives of everyday people and inspiring to us all.

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