Sitting in the press box at Angel Stadium on Sunday I realized something. There’s nothing wrong with baseball.
In fact, it’s the purest of the four major sports in North America.
Increasingly baseball has come under scrutiny for taking too long, and losing appeal amongst younger generations of fans.
A mound visit clock was introduced at the beginning of last season, limiting pitcher and catcher interactions to 30 seconds, before the umpire breaks up the party.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, only on the job in his third season, hoped to have a pitch clock installed by the start of this season, but alas, it will have to wait until 2018 at the earliest.
Much has been made surrounding the appeal of baseball to younger generations, including myself.
However, trying to fast forward the game of baseball to appeal to a portion of the population whose attention span is scientifically documented as less than a goldfish, would do the game a disservice.
One of my favorite Alanism’s is with age comes understanding and patience. Baseball has always appealed to older generations more than younger, but as these young men and women mature, they grow into the next generation of fans.
Case in point, my Aunt Suzanne. Growing up she never cared for baseball, now she’ll attend games with my uncle or with friends from work when she gets the chance.
That’s not to say younger fans don’t exist. Just this weekend, was the first of many Little League parade days at Angel Stadium. Some 8,000 baseball fans under 13 marched around a field they someday hope to play on.
Back to the purity of baseball for a moment.
There is no experience in sports fandom on par with entering a major league ballpark.
Back in Baltimore, you walk past recently erected bronze statues of Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr., and Jim Palmer, before filing through the turnstyles, and looking up at the giant scoreboard in centerfield, as well as the B&O Warehouse. The smells of pit beef and Roma sausage grilling at Boog’s BBQ fill the summer air in Baltimore. And then, after picking up a Natty Boh and maybe a program, you’re standing on the flag court looking down on the stadium that changed how all others have been built.
I know some of you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned the dark cloud ready to rain on baseball’s parade at any moment: steroids.
Name me one sport they don’t present a problem for and I’ll take it into consideration. Baseball has turned a corner on the steroid era in it’s history, as new generations of players look to cement a legacy of playing the game clean.
I’ll be the first to admit 1-0 games are kind of a drag, as was the case until the 8th inning Sunday in Anaheim. But when you realize the mastery of two pitchers matching each other pitch for pitch, the game’s appeal expands.
Especially when you consider Jays starter, Marcus Stroman, threw a complete game against a potent Angels lineup in just 97 pitches.
In a previous column, I wrote how baseball season should be shortened by almost fifty games. While I stand by the argument, there is a reason we can tolerate 162 baseball games and nothing close in other leagues.
Like tonight’s NFL Draft that takes up a portion of the football offseason, baseball carries us through summer. By the middle of June we’re left with baseball, tennis and golf. Imagine a summer without baseball. Go on…let that sink in.
No Father’s Day at the ballpark, no Fourth of July uniforms and fireworks, no late August end of summer hurrah before returning to school.
Somehow we can handle no football from the first Sunday in February to the second Sunday in September, but there is no way we could live through a summer without baseball.
If you think baseball need’s fixing, I recommend going to a game. Don’t go to go, go to experience.
Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the park.
The crack of the bat, the music on the sound system specifically chosen for that team (Thank God I’m a Country Boy still gives me chills in Baltimore), the sound of the beer man cracking open another cold one.
Open your eyes, and see the fresh cut grass and pristine dirt field with pure white bases.
Smell the grills cranking out enough hot dogs, to literally circle the globe.
Regardless of who wins or loses just enjoy the experience, because it’s the purest one you will find in sports.
And trust me, once you relax and let baseball take hold of you, it will open your mind.