Baseball Bites: an Introduction

Sweet stance, clean pants (1995)

Baseball and I have always had a love-hate thing going on.

The sport was my first love — before basketball, even. I had a knack for sending lasers back to the pitcher and a hunger for fielding so aggressive that I ended up with a broken collarbone — and that was only mushball.

By the time I was fourteen, however, baseball* and I were on a one-way train to Splitsville. I didn’t enjoy playing the game anymore, and my life as a spectator had entered the inevitable loss-of-innocence rough patch: The Cleveland Indians had broken my heart in ’95 and ’96, and I was starting to know a little something about the business side of MLB and why the Tribe felt they had to *sob* trade Carlos Baerga… Meanwhile, my artistic tastes were developing, and if I was forced to listen to another dramatic reading of “Casey at the Bat,” I was going to ralph all over the place.

I’m not sure when exactly baseball and I began to reconcile. I dated a baseball player in college, but I can’t say that sitting through doubleheaders in the fickle, freezing Chicago spring did much for my appreciation of the game.  I have fond memories of attending many Dollar Hot Dog Nights at U.S. Cellular Field née Comiskey Park (or U.S. Comiskular, as a friend likes to call it) and the occasional game at Wrigley.

In my early adulthood, I found myself watching the Yankees — quelle horreur! – because a dear cousin was working in their organization. My original American League allegiance (to Cleveland) was further challenged by a move to the Twin Cities, where I couldn’t help but like the modest Midwestern pinstripers who were simultaneously inspiring and slaying some of my closest Minnesota friends. Having experienced a game or two in the Metrodome, I must admit: Target Field is a lovely place to watch baseball.

What really brought me back to the game, though, was playing it again. My first spring in MN, I joined The Valley Girls — a women’s slowpitch softball team in a southern suburb of Saint Paul. It was like getting together with a former sweetheart and realizing that a spark really was still there, however small. I played shortstop (badly) for that team, and gradually, I remembered everything that I had loved in the first place.

Four springs later, I’m still playing softball two nights a week — on one women’s team and one co-ed team. I’m helping out with a high school fastpitch team, too, which offers a whole new way of seeing the game and understanding it.

It’s not all love, all the time, though. I tend to get antsy at games that I’m not playing or coaching in, and the length of the major league season is staggering. Similarly, I am both delighted by and skeptical of all the literature devoted to baseball. Along with boxing, baseball seems to be the thinking writer guy’s sport of choice.** Some of that writing borders on hypernostalgic or fetishizing, but I suppose that’s the nature of any subject that has been done and done and done — especially by people who deeply, devoutly love it.

Where in my heart does baseball stand today? Let’s say it’s batting fifth or sixth in the line-up, behind some heavier hitters and some reliable on-base guys. It may rise in the order as spring becomes summer, but I bet I’ll be thinking football by fall.

Where in this blog does baseball stand? In small bites and shorter bursts; in brief recollections and lazy singles to shallow right.

NOTES:

*For the purposes of this essay, I’m lumping baseball and softball into the same category. I do recognize that the games are quite different, but the spirit of both have always been the same for me. Perhaps I will get into the distinction (or lack of distinction in my own mind) in another essay.

**Some of the people whose baseball writing I most enjoy happen to be women. Links forthcoming in future posts, but check out my blogroll (bottom of the page) in the meantime.

5 Comments to “Baseball Bites: an Introduction”

  1. I recently finished “The Baseball Codes” and really enjoyed it – but I’m new to baseball books. :)

  2. Love the photo! And your post makes me miss softball. There is something so satisfying about the delightful pingck of ball hitting metal bat.

  3. Yo Clutch, is that big league chew in your gullet or are you just happy to be at bat?

    • That’s pure concentration, Boots. But I did really like putting in a pinch of original flavor Big League Chew from time to time. I used to write papers in college that way: 6 pieces of Dubble Bubble, refreshed every ten minutes or so until the paper was finished.

  4. Too advance MLB TV Watching try being unemployed! It helps fill out your day and when you take a nap during the day to watch a late night game or take a nap during an afternoon game you don’t feel as pathetic sleeping with the sun out! It turns into a sense of accomplishment when you last through another 1 of 162 of these

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