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Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Article Date: 
23 July, 2010 - 06:00

I love baseball! Like many boys, I was signed up for my little league team when I was seven. Ever since then, I have played either baseball or softball. Yes, when I became an old geezer, I had to change to softball. (It was getting just a little too difficult to drag that bulky oxygen tank around the diamond!) The bases in softball are closer together, so I didn’t have to run as far. The ball was bigger, so I could see it with my bad eyes. Even though playing the game has gotten a lot more difficult for me, I still love to play. I hope to be playing for a long, long time – even if I have to pull myself around the bases with a walker!
It is not only playing ball that I love. I love the whole atmosphere of a baseball game. I love to be a part of the crowd and root for the home team. I love to watch all of my surroundings at the ballpark. The thing that is different about watching baseball from other sports is that there is a lot of time to observe things. I have mentioned that I really enjoy “people watching.” I like to just sit back, get comfortable, and watch people. I like to consider who they are and what they are thinking and why they behave the way they do. The baseball diamond is a great place to do this because there is so much going on – on the field and off.
Last night, I went to the Salt Lake Bee’s game, a triple AAA team. Watching the players of each team and their coaches and managers always gives me a lot to think about. Everything in baseball is done so deliberately. Everything is given so much thought – from the batting order to signs given by the base line coaches, there is always something to consider. As I watch, I enjoy watching all of the subtleties of the game.
I observed that all of the first and third base coaches NEVER stand inside the nice little white box that has been so carefully drawn for them. It is almost as if they cannot, “think outside the box” unless they are actually standing outside of this box! I noticed the umpire watching the third base coach out of the corner of his eye. It is a lot like watching your kids push a rule a little farther… then, a little farther to see how far they can break the rule without major consequences.
There are a lot of superstitions in baseball, a lot of routines that are followed by players in order to not mess up a winning streak or a no-hitter. I noticed that about half of the players on both teams will jump over the base line going to and from the dugout. Was this some kind of game like, “Don’t step on the crack, or you’ll break your mother’s back.”
These are just the kinds of things I observe and am curious about. Like, when the Bees were on the field and would throw a player out, they would do the traditional routine of throwing the ball around the horn before getting the ball back to the pitcher. Why do they usually leave the first baseman out of this? Is he too tired from catching the ball just a few seconds ago?
At professional games, players take time to throw balls to the fans in the stands. Some of the players always throw the balls and some players never do…is this a little clue into their minds and personalities as to who is more friendly and outgoing and who is more reserved or arrogant? I also have some theories about all of that scratching going on down there on the field, but that is for an entirely different kind of story….
Then, there is the crowd that I am able to observe at the game. Baseball has fans from all different walks of life, so the crowds are usually very diverse. There is always something interesting to see in the stand if you are looking. It is an interesting study into human nature to watch the different loyalties of the fans. Some are so anxious to support the home team that it seems as if their entire life depends on the outcome based on how they are screaming and yelling and carrying on. But this love can be fickle and very conditional… they show the love until a member of their team makes an error or the other team gets a hit. Then, you would think they had their entire lives riding on the game by the way they turn on a player. And, of course, the players on the other team are just sheer evil to them. No matter how much physical ability they display, because they are on the other team, they are truly the enemy. That is one part of professional sports that is difficult… what do these fans then do when their favorite player signs a contract with the rival team?
In the crowd, there are also those who seem to come just to relax in the summer-time air. They don’t seem to have any interest in the game at all. I observed one lady reading a book and didn’t even look up when the home team hit a three-run homer after the game has been tied for seven innings. Another girl in front of me was casually watching a movie….the ballpark is a good place for movie snacks… I must admit…
And then, there are those who have one eye on the game and the rest of their attention on the person(s) they came to the game with. I can tell that lot of really great conversations and connections are being made in those stands. There is just something about the atmosphere at a ballgame. No wonder it has been dubbed, “The Great American Past Time.”