America’s Pastime, it is.
Baseball is nine uniforms running out onto the field. Baseball is the end of a wooden bat striking cork and rubber. Baseball is the leather defense that we wield on the calming orange grit of the infield. First conceived in June of 1846, the American tradition has traversed decades of a changing mindset, a changing culture, a changing nation. It is not a sport ruled merely by the strongest of hand, but also the fleetest of foot. The game is not one founded on harsh brutality, but on quiet finesse. ‘Tis not the nature of constant action, but variable patience. Baseball is the one sport where this finesse and this patience may, in a single moment, be spearheaded by thunderous cheer.
Baseball is a single play. Baseball is made exciting by the roadrunner swiping second base after ninety feel of anticipation. Baseball is made electrifying by the single, the double, the home run that breaks open the scoring. Baseball is made breathtaking by a called strike three with bases loaded, marked by the rising decibels of a crowd come alive.
Baseball is a sport lived not in the many hours of every game, but in the single moments of a spectacular play. It is defending your home stadium against a division rival, and then ambushing them at theirs. Teams play to showcase talent, teams play to compete, teams play to triumph. And in every triumph, a hero is born, if only for a night. A jersey is raised in salute, a name echoes across a city, a trophy is wielded in shining gold. Sometimes, baseball history can be seen through the history of a baseball. Enshrined in our memories are Hank’s 715th, and Ruth’s “called homer,” and Thomson’s shot heard ’round the world.
Tradition is baseball. Tradition that is captured in my Dad teaching me, in myself teaching my brother. Our brotherhood bond has never been stronger than when I showed him how to field a ground ball, how to round first on a double, how to make yourself shrink on a high pitch, how to bunt when the third baseman is falling asleep. Only the two of us, one player and one coach, could deceivingly dance down the third baseline in complete tandem as the pitcher winds up and delivers. This is baseball.
Baseball is peanuts, baseball is cracker jacks, baseball is the old ball game. You always yell, you always cheer, you always root for the home team. The game is built on blood, as rivalries fume. The game is built on sweat, as hustle reigns. The game is built on tears, as emotions run high. Baseball is not many, idle fans, but a single, strong community. Fan-bases are cities, cemented in their foundations. Fan-bases are alliances, forged by steel bonds. Fan-bases are fraternities, where one goal is shared by all. They are not filled with unfamiliar doubts, but common ambitions. Fans are the spine that runs through the sport, carefully connecting all the appendages. Fans are the minds of the sport, dissecting a crucial loss over a hot-dog and a beer. Fans are the heart of the sport, always filling a stadium with pride in their hometown heroes.
Baseball is represented by the bats and helmets and gloves of our youth. It is growing curiosity, and high expectations, and intense wonder at the prospect of a new game. In a growing world of technology, baseball calls our next generation to the grass, and the clay, and the mound. That moment of nine little league uniforms taking their position in the field speaks volumes to the role that this game has created for itself. Each year, ball-parks are filled with not declining members, but a surging roll-call. Every Spring, a platoon of pitchers launch wave after wave of strikes at their enemy. Behind them, a garrison of infielders take their place on the clay, ready to defend their territory from ground balls. If a hit breaches the first line, an entire army of outfielders are ready to track down the outliers.
Teamwork is baseball. The sport is not one of subtle isolation, but fierce camaraderie. It is a camaraderie that exists between all teammates, black and white, young and old, players and coaches. Baseball is a partnership, baseball is a family, baseball is a brotherhood. The sport fosters bonds that will last the season, last a decade, last a lifetime. These bonds are not built through the dishonor of a surrender, but through the integrity of the competition. They hold strong.
Strength. Not just in bonds, but the furious fervor for the game. If you’re a baseball player, you play, stiff or loose, rain or shine, in sickness or in health. Baseball calls forth a relentless rigor that players possess. Baseball requires a steady self-control that players possess. Baseball demands a victorious view that all players possess. It’s in their heart, and their soul, and their battle-tested blood.
Religion is baseball. Not just on Sundays, but every day of the week, ever week of the season. You go. The simple game is not simply a game. It is a test of all things thrust upon each player: finesse, strength, patience, endurance, will to win. Baseball is the sport that your grandfather played, that your father played, that you play, that your son will play. Baseball becomes a nation, becomes a state, becomes a family. ‘Tis conceived in our traditions, and ’tis born into our being. The game is him and her, you and me. Baseball is the players on the field, the fans in the stadium, the people around the backyards of the world. The sport is not just about the adults that throw with their teammates, but the boys that catch with their dads – all you need is an old piece of leather.