April 23, 2011

Why baseball is the best

I got my first “It’s baseball season moment” the other day.

Now I know that the pros have been playing for a little while, but my enthusiasm has largely been blunted by the fact that my beloved Red Sox have started the season with the same gusto as John Goodman on a treadmill.

Last Saturday, walking over to O’Malley Park for Mission Valey Rockies’ practice, you could smell the grass, the sun was beating down on the diamond and you could hear that familiar “thump” as a baseball came in contact with a leather glove.

It really doesn’t take much to realize that baseball is perhaps the best sport around. There’s no argument, but if you want to make a blasphemous statement that football, basketball or soccer is better, let me present the following statements.

The game is the same on every level – Football more than any other sport varies wildly depending on what age of kids are playing. The NFL is a very cold, calculated game with very little room for originality and everyone ends up copying one another’s playbook. College is a little more wide-open as teams try things as coaches play around the amount of talent they have on the team. High school actually might be the more pure form of football, it comes at a time where the talent of the athletes but also the smarts in the playbook are probably most evenly matched.

But you can’t compare the three. They’re so incredibly different types of games, the speed is different, the play-calling is incredibly different and if you’re trying to compare box scores, you’re going to go insane.

But baseball? With the exception of t-ball, the last level of baseball I excelled at, statistics and the way the game is played is largely the same. That’s what gives fans so much enjoyment. When somebody says a pitcher struck out 20 batters in a high school game, you know that it’s an incredible achievement. When someone runs for 200-yards in a pee-wee football game… well he just hit puberty before everyone else.

Softball too so resembles the pro version of baseball, that it’s rather eerie. Watching Janeal McDonald from Mission get up to bat is like watching Albert Pujols step up to the plate. You can tell that Lady Bulldogs fans expect something good to happen, and the opposing coach is nervously chewing on their fingernails. The only big difference is the base-running, if a catcher is distracted for a split second, it seems like teams like Polson will steal two bases on them.

Stats – Numbers count and mean something in baseball. If you didn’t as a kid pour over baseball cards and the plethora of stats they had printed on the back… well you didn’t have a childhood. Just how important are stats? Last week, I spent a good half hour at Walmart debating if I should buy a new pack of 2011 baseball cards just the heck of it. My reason… I could backtrack every MLB players stats I could get a card of. Why wouldn’t you blow a spare $20 on that?

The chatter – Have you listened to baseball players talk to one another. It’s funnier than “Conan” “30-Rock” “Saturday Night Live” and “Modern Family” combined. I wish I could say that it’s all innocent but lets be honest… baseball players are usually the weirdest athletes out of all the sports. Who else blesses their bats with chicken bones or talk to their gloves?

The history – Baseball can trace it’s history back to the Civil War. In what other sport can you refer to guys with handlebar moustaches and names like “Three-Finger Brown” and “Shoeless Joe Jackson” for stories. The best I can do for football and basketball is “Won’t shut up Warren Sapp” and “Blake could dunk on the moon Griffin.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to recruit to my man-cave and see if the Red Sox can’t pull themselves out of the basement of the AL East.

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