The batter looks out to the field with a full count, and he watches as the opposing team’s coach adjusts his outfielders to the left in preparation for his hit.
The batter looks to the coach and sees the signals that are telling him where to place the ball. The pitcher winds up and throws a change-up, while the batter closes his eyes as he hits the ball off of the left light post to score the game-winning run.
Contrary to popular belief, for me as a woman, it is not just about the cute men with baseball pants; it is about the game behind the game. And baseball is more than a sport — it’s American.
Baseball is the only sport where the most important parts of the game happen and fans can’t even see them. The strategical concepts and the mental strategies that are behind each game would surprise most of us if we were on the field with them.
That reason is why baseball should not only be America’s past time but also stay as America’s sport.
The game behind the game
Most people just see men standing around, throwing a ball back and forth, and occasionally making a play. But a mental game is what is actually happening. The pitcher is on the mound slyly talking with the catcher to call the right pitch. The man on first base has a little bit of anxiety, debating if it’s smart to steal second. The crowd sighs as the pitcher fakes a few bad pitches to increase the cockiness of the next batter, all in a scheme to make it easier to strike the next player out. And the only people who know that game plan are the pitcher, catcher and coach.
There is a mental game behind the game. People have to know about baseball to really watch and understand the game played. Each one of these elements requires every player to be smart and play as if everything counts on his move — because it just might.
Baseball is one of the few team sports that asks so much from the individual. In football, though each lineman has assignments, more than one player can help take a man down. In soccer, there are two defenders and the goalkeeper to help keep the ball out of the net, but in baseball, each player has his own assignments.
Imagine you are playing outfield. The opposing team is in scoring position, and that fly ball the batter hit into left field is on its way to you. You look up, and you’re not sure where the ball is, whether it is due to the white ball blending in with the white clouds or the sun beaming in your eyes. If you catch the ball, you can end the game right there. But if you miss the ball by a fraction of an inch, the other team will score, and you might have just lost the ball game.
Now tell me another game that has all of those qualities.
More than a game
Most people say you don’t need a lot of skill to play baseball. Some would call that ignorance.
“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock,” said Earl Weaver, a past professional baseball player. “You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That is why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”
What he is saying is baseball is the only sport where the winning team must continue playing for the whole game. The team can’t take the easy way out and end the game in the final minutes with things such as kneeing the ball or dribbling the ball and letting the clock run. In baseball, the pitcher has to give every man his fair shot until the very end, and sometimes it is in those final moments where the seemingly impossible becomes possible.
There is no time limit, and the game lasts as long as the players’ will to win. The game is not over until the final out.
With that, baseball is not more important than any other sport. It is more than worthy to stand as an American icon.
Think of Jackie Robinson. He helped break the racial barrier and make history for America on April 15, 1947, by being one of the first African-Americans to be involved with American sports and play in the Major Leagues. He is in textbooks and might be one of the first people most Americans think of when they think back to those times.
If you have ever been to a baseball game, you know nothing beats walking through the tunnel to your seat and watching as the field opens up before your eyes. The smell of the freshly cut grass, the baseball team lined up against the edge of the smoothed dirt, and everyone at attention for the National Anthem before the game is more than something humbling; it’s American. That is something you can only feel by doing it for yourself.
When the sun goes down, the lights go on, and all you can hear is the clanking of the baseball against the bat — some would argue there is no better sound. Billy Beane in “Money Ball” said it best: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
Baseball is much more than a game. It is a symbol for America.
“I see great things in baseball — it is our game — the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us,” Walt Whitman said.