Volpe: Baseball, hot dogs, and hot apple pie!
Are you a baseball fanatic? Do you look forward to the smell of freshly cut infield grass and the whiff of leather from a glove? Do you love the sound of a pitch pounding the catcher’s mitt, or the crack of the bat when the ball is squared up? Are you anxious to have vendors throwing peanuts and Cracker Jacks to you like Sandy Koufax or the Big Unit?
The first 100 mph pitches of the season were screaming toward hitters on Thursday. Even fans who are not baseball fanatics attend a few games with family or friends. Whether you attend Little League, high school, or Major League games, it’s all about “pitch ball, see ball, hit ball, catch ball.”
Arizonans are extremely lucky to be able to watch spring training games. It’s like watching Major League baseball players in a Little League ballpark. If you’ve never been to a spring game, I highly suggest you see one next season. Fans from around the country invade Arizona to watch their favorite teams get ready for the season playing in the Cactus League.
Like many of you, I grew up playing baseball in Little League when I was 6 years old. I anxiously looked forward to that night’s game. I would stay awake half the night worrying that the game might be rained out. If it was, I felt like crying. In fact, I did cry. Then in 1992 Tom Hanks said, “There’s no crying in baseball,” so I stopped immediately; I was only 50 years old.
Sorry “Snake” fans, but in Little League I was on the Dodgers and have been a Dodger fan for 70 years. OMG! Can’t be! It seems like just yesterday when I would put on my Little League uniform at 6 a.m. for a game scheduled to be played at 6 p.m.
With my spikes on I felt like I could outrun the dog, or even a cheetah. I was so enthralled about being in baseball heaven while tossing a baseball up and down in the kitchen, the ball splashed into my mother’s pasta sauce. Even with my spikes on, I was unable to outrun my mother!
From the appearance of the Courier’s sports pages lately, I know there are thousands of fans in the Quad Cities playing baseball and/or watching baseball at all levels, following their favorite players and teams. Many local players have even gone on to play baseball at the professional level.
Do you miss how baseball was played when it was America’s No. 1 pastime? When baseball was played for casual fans as well as fanatic? When you didn’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to be able to follow the game? If you know what WHIP, RISP AND WAR mean in baseball, and how they apply to your favorite players, you are a certified baseball junkie.
Yogi Berra might say, baseball ain’t déjà vu all over again. Do you miss the “good ol’ days of baseball?” Before Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens and other great players were barred from the Hall Of Fame. Before computer nerds from Ivy League schools began micro-managing how the game is supposed to be played and managed. Today, baseball and its players are put under the microscope more than cancer cells. They barely look at the player; they look at his computer statistics. They feel he’s a computerized BOT, designed to play our Great Game of Baseball.
For a game that has been working on shortening its length for years, that now has umpires put on headphones and talk to New York to get calls correct, I wonder if they know what direction they are going in. These so-called executives and umpires seem to be running from third to first!
Baseball was far more exciting when offense was emphasized. Chicks still love the long ball. When a ball is smoked up the middle, I expect it to go for a hit, not see a player playing out of position behind second field it for an out. That goes for second baseman in short right as well. If I wanted to see a game with a rover, I’d go watch softball. And NO! I do not want computers calling balls and strikes! Something must be going foul: Major League attendance has been going down faster than a sinker ball over the past few years.
Oh! I can’t resist. Take me out to a ballgame anyway. Even so-called baseball executives can’t totally foul up the Great Game of Baseball.
Ciao for now, J.J.