It is time for my annual plea to pay attention to the upcoming baseball season. I did not say you had to be a die-hard fan or even follow your home team (god forbid!). I am saying Baseball is a no-doubt, American sport that waves the American Flag, sings the ‘National Anthem’ the loudest, and even plays ‘God Bless America’ every seventh inning in every ballpark. At Nationals Park, you can watch Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy (at their tallest) run in a non-political race every game. In what History class does that ever happen? You should pay attention to Baseball even if you do not like it, as a matter of respect for a great institution, played in every town, coast to coast for the last 180 years.
At the worse, Baseball is a sport that is perfectly harmless. Yes, I get it… some of you would watch it more if they cleared the benches more often for fighting, but Baseball is not Hockey or MMA fighting. It is a game about two intense skills, the hardest in all of sports – hitting and pitching. It is played in a more gentlemanly, intense fashion, too survive the heat of the summer. It is more competitive than golf, but has less concussions than football. More scoring than soccer, but less frenetic than basketball. More breaks in the action if you need to answer e-mail or facebook, but more intense match-ups when the bases get crowded. There’s swigging, stealing, sliding, snagging, squeezing, safe-calls and strike-outs. You see diving, leaping, climbing, pick-ups, throwing and tagging.
If you (again… god forbid) go to a game because some friend talks you into it, at the worse you get an excuse to eat a hot dog or a sausage with peppers and onions, followed by a funnel cake and drink a beer or two; and not have to count the calories because you are doing a civic duty.
If you have to watch a game at home for a few minutes, because some family member is dominating the television in the family room (I admit guilt), then you get points for sitting an inning or two while working on your computer or watching something on your I-Pad (with earplugs on of course); and then when a home run comes you get to participate in the high fives (additional points) and see the replay of what you missed. This can do wonders for a relationship!
Last October, I helped my wife prepare for a possible job promotion by suggesting that she memorize the Nationals batting order (Turner, Werth, Murphy, Harper, Rendon, Ramos, Zimmerman, Espinosa) going into the playoffs (that was easy, right?). Relax…I know you are thinking coercion like in the movie ‘Diner’, but she knew most of it anyway; and I was certain that seeing officers of the company every day at the office, and being able to spout off baseball information with a male dominated culture, if necessary, would be politically brilliant. I was right, of course, she got the promotion.
As I point out in my first novel, “Big Train’s Backyard” (which is a fabulous read for the summer), the current National League has been playing continuously since 1876. Really? Wow… that’s called forever in this day and age. Civil war hero, Ulysses S. Grant was President on the country’s 100th birthday in 1876. Accept the history, Baseball is our national healer and pastime, so buckle up and get on board.
Here are some tips to help you act like you care (especially for women who don’t):
- Check out the studs in the Nationals line-up, 23 year-old Trea Turner and 28 year-old Adam Eaton will steal your hearts with their incredible speed and boyish looks. Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon are simply three of the best hitters in baseball – all with great behinds. Jason Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters are the old men in the line-up (in the over thirty-club), but they still can hit sexy home-runs.
- Watch the first inning whenever Stephen Strasburg or Max Scherzer pitch. If the first few batters walk away looking stupid, then you could be in for a special pitching performance with lots of strikeouts. I was there in 2010, with my son, to watch Strasburg strike out 14 batters in 7 innings in his first major league performance. I still get chills thinking about it. Scherzer has thrown two no-hitters and struck out 20 in his last 35 starts. These two pitchers are the closest things to Walter Johnson (read my book), we will ever witness in DC.
- Download the ESPN application and check the score of the games every few days and watch some highlights of home runs. This keeps you informed enough to banter with those at work or in the neighborhood; and with your partner if they are a fan.
I could go on, but I’m guessing that is enough about baseball for now. Just remember, Baseball can be a dazzling display of defensive dives, and heroic hammering of high homers; or pleasingly patriotic and fantastic fun. Either way, give it a shot this spring and summer. Besides, the Nationals could be terrific this year and you want to be on the bandwagon if that happens. Just read the book if you want a preview of what DC could be like. Remember 5 million people celebrating in Chicago last year? Now that was a real party!