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A ballpark memoir

Posted April 11, 2017

thunderpumpkin87 - SB Nation

 

A lot of noise has been made the last couple of years in regards to how slow baseball games are played, and how long they take to complete. Complaints from pundits and fans alike have ranged from “Hurry up on that replay” to “Get back in the batter’s box”! We live in a world which has become so saturated with instant gratification, that patience is no longer a virtue. Everyone now has a smart phone that they are glued to every minute of every day, and information of any kind is available with a few swipes of a thumb. Should baseball adjust to catch up with these ever changing times? Well, I can’t do anything but give you my opinion and story.

On Sunday I had the opportunity to go the Diamondbacks vs. Indians game, and a few things became readily apparent to me. The slow paced atmosphere at the ball park not only gave me solace from the chaos outside, but allowed me to breathe and relax. I became aware of why I fell in love with the game when I was younger. My mind, spent from hours of work and school during the week, was set free for a couple of hours on this spring afternoon. The weather could not have been better, and the roof was open allowing a slight breeze to chill the ballpark. As I sat in the stands, I watched every pitch with absolutely zero anticipation. I know that sounds counterintuitive to what we have come to believe, and what we are told, entertainment is supposed to be about, but I was not disengaged.

About halfway through this game, I looked up at the scoreboard and we were leading 2-0. I then looked at the clock, and noticed that only about an hour and half had passed since first pitch. Now, I realize that this sense of relaxation and enjoyment may very well have been derived from the fact that the Dbacks were winning that day and already were sitting on a 5-1 record. But regardless of where our beloved team sat in the standings that day, I was enjoying myself thoroughly. I had just purchased a Black/Red/Teal Goldschmidt T-shirt and I was wearing it proudly. I had just finished off a Dback dog, and a Pepsi so my tummy was as happy as my brain. I felt like a kid again.

You might remember that this game was not devoid of drama, and actually, the exact opposite was probably true; this was an action filled game. Three challenges on one play, Arizona scoring against the defending AL Champion’s ace starter, and a ninth inning that looked like the lead might have been lost. So I was still getting my fill of exciting moments, and these moments exist in any ball game. You just have to know what to look for.

 

Imagine for a moment if you will, that you are playing center field for the Diamondbacks on a given day. The score is tied 0-0 and it is in the fourth inning. Now, a lot of people might say “Boy what a boring game, there haven’t been any runs”! But stay with me, and I will show you just how much is actually going on. There is a runner on first, and he is a fast runner that just smoked a line drive single to you in center field to start the top half of the inning. The number three hitter is at the plate, and you begin to analyze what might unfold before you in the next two minutes.

  • 0-0 The runner might take off for second on the first pitch. It’s a close game and he’s got speed, so he might try to make something happen with his legs. If he does go, I need to wait until the pitch has been delivered to break in towards second base. If I don’t I risk getting exposed by a potential hit and run. If the ball is hit slowly to the outfield I need to try to keep the runner at second. And lastly, if the ball is hit to the gap, I need to get it to my cut off guy quickly because the guy at the plate does not have great speed, so we can either get a play at the plate, or get an out at second.
  • 1-0 The first pitch is a ball. I now need to be more aware of a potential hit and run. Their ace pitcher is mowing us down so far, so one run might be enough today.
  • 2-0 Second pitch is a ball. Let’s see if he takes a pitch here, but I still need to be ready because he might be sitting fastball and could get a hold of one.
  • 2-1 He was sitting fastball, and just missed it.
  • Pop out to short. 1 out.

 

This is what went through my mind during the first out of the fourth inning on this Sunday’s game. I often times try to imagine what I would be thinking as a fielder, and the action of the game speeds up. Of course, many other times, I just sit and blissfully watch plays being made while soaking up the sun, and not thinking of anything but whether or not I should have another hot dog.

The point of this little exercise is to give an example of how much is actually going on during any pitch of any game. I could have written another page about what other thoughts are going through the center fielder’s mind; everything from where to cover, to hitter tendencies in certain counts, to defensive shifts of the infield. I know that most of you who frequent this site already know most of these thoughts, and are aware of what goes into every play… I mean, this was just the center fielder’s thoughts for goodness sakes! But, what is so truly special about baseball is that it is a game of thought and preparation of what MIGHT happen. And as a fan we get to experience the spectrum of action at our leisure.

 

But what I really want readers to glean from this idea, is that there is excitement in baseball. It might not be in the form of a 250-pound linebacker smashing the face off of some running back, and don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that entertainment too. But the excitement is there. I consistently hear “Games take too long to play, I don’t have time to watch them” or “I can’t stand how slow baseball is”. Well, I know that I might have an old fashioned thought pattern, but chill the heck out! Have we evolved so far in society such that we can’t spare three hours on a Sunday to hang out with friends and family and enjoy a game that speaks to our childhood as well as our country’s past? I for one cherish the slow pace of baseball, and hope that nothing changes too drastically while I am alive. I don’t have anywhere more important to be than right here with my family. Except for maybe the hot dog vendor.