Baseball at its best

By Joe Rector

 

Tuesday brought me great joy. The Atlanta Braves won the World Series after a 26-year hiatus. The team missed the opportunity to put the Astros away on Sunday, but a surprising number of Atlanta fans were at Tuesday’s game to celebrate along with the Braves. They sang and swung their arms in tomahawk chops. In fact, at times they were much louder than the Astro fans. At some point, those home team fans tried to drown out Atlanta fans. When that didn’t work, they began to boo, and the fact that a fight didn’t break out was a surprise.

My brother quizzed me about watching the Tuesday game. I told him that wouldn’t happen. I’d tuned in the previous one, the one where Duvall hit a grand slam in the first inning, and watched the Astros claw their way back into the game and win it. I declared that I was bad luck for teams that I like. Most of the time, when I watch them on television, they lose. He then told me not to watch and bring the Braves bad luck. Nothing interested me on other channels, so I tuned in at the fifth inning and watched the team from the Southeast beat the team from the Southwest. Sometimes, things work out.

Many people condemn baseball by saying it’s boring. Too much time is spent watching pitchers pretend to be members of the grounds crew as they dig holes with their cleats, only to watch them then fill the holes back. However, nothing slows down the game as much as batters. They, too, dig with their cleats. Then they have to blur the chalk line so they can stand as far away, or close, as possible. Probably the most time wasted comes when batters adjust the straps on their batting gloves after each and every pitch. I know it is more of a habit than a need, but those things make a great game too long to watch.

I’ve long said that baseball requires more from athletes than any other sport. That doesn’t mean that other sports and their players are not special and gifted individuals. Just think of it for a minute. A man stands at home plate and watches a baseball traveling 90-plus miles per hour at him. He holds a slender wooden object and uses it to strike the speeding ball. If he does, an outfielder places his body in front of the ball and tries to grab it in his glove and throw it to first base. For the most part, the entire game is a battle of one man against a ball and another player, a true test of individual skill.

Nothing brings out the little boy in a man more than baseball. Flashbacks come to men when they play the grown-up version of this game. Those days when baseball was played on a rough patch of ground and bases are made from bricks, paper, or big rocks come to mind. The glory of the game was found in beating the other team that consisted of good friends. Baseball offers freedom from the problems of the normal workday. The biggest concern as a player stands at the plate is whether he has correctly read the signs from the coach.

So, congratulations Atlanta Braves. I’ve pulled for you ever since the days of Greg Maddox, John Smotlz, and Tom Glavine. You’ve brought pride back to Atlanta and given us folks in the south something about which to brag. We will stand with you throughout the coming months and will sing your praises. Let’s hope that money doesn’t tempt our players and move them to other teams, especially ones that are in the same division. Go Braves!

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