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"Play Ball"
Posted: Wednesday, April 5th, 2006, 1:54 PM
by Beano
Major League Baseball is back and I for one (maybe the only one) am glad of it. Yes I see its warts. They’re so prevalent they couldn’t be removed with a 55 gallon drum of Compound W. The scars include:

-the labor strife between millionaires and billionaires that deprived fans of a World Series in 1994
-“stars” such as Mike Hampton and Chan Ho Park making more than 14 MILLION dollars per year
-payroll imbalances that relegate baseball-crazy, tradition-laden, franchises and fan bases like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City to support roles in the summer’s drama
-two sets of rules for members of the same association
-HGH mentioned more than RBI, and ERA
-Bud Selig initiating a sham steroid investigation after turning a blind eye for years hoping the home run derby contest spilled over from the All-Star Game to the regular season

The list goes on-and-on and I understand why many former MLB fans have found other spring and summer pursuits. I however have not. Most of my attraction is admittedly romanticism. Mainly it takes me back to my youth more than any other sport. It reminds me of:

-buying packs (or more likely boxes if I had $2) of baseball cards trying to get the entire Yankee starting lineup
-chasing autographs at the Atlanta Marriott when Mom, Dad, and I made our annual trip to watch the Braves
-listening to Milo Hamilton (one of the most underrated broadcasters of our time) do the Braves games on WATO 1290 as we played neighborhood games or dialing in Jack Buck, Harry Carey, Ernie Harwell, Bob Prince, or Herb Score at night when I was supposed to be asleep
-“enlightened” teachers who would turn the day-time World Series games on the TV or radio in the classroom
-playing wiffleball, strikeout, and organized baseball from Shep’s League (little league for Oak Ridgers in the 60s) to Junior College.

I realize that almost all of the pleasures listed above are things of the past but today’s game has it’s attractions as well. The game like life has evolved and I still find enjoyment in it as I did as a kid. Today it’s

-winter FINALLY (the older I get the less tolerance I have for even the mild winters of East Tennessee) turning to spring
-the crack of wood rather than the ping of metal
-the smell of mowed grass that I had nothing to do with (this is disingenuous since Sheno has mowed every blade of grass in our near quarter of a century of marriage)
-the extinction of cookie-cutter, fake grass, no character stadiums
-the replacement of the above with facilities combining the tradition and personality of the city and franchise and the modern amenities their fans crave
-my choice of games on television and the internet
-annual summer trips (once I finally realized 100 softball games per season was no longer what my body desired) with my brother to a ballpark I’ve never seen
-the diversity of the rosters
-fantasy teams that keep friends in touch over the busy summer
-The awesome presence at the plate of Albert Pujols, Todd Helton’s class and precision, Dontrelle Willis’ child-like enthusiasm, the joy of White Sox and yes even Red Sox fans when their teams finally reached the pinnacle.

So stand back when I shake my head if you don’t want the sand flying from my ears to get in your eyes because when it comes to MLB’s blemishes I am an accomplished ostrich. Call me a sheep, a romantic, a chump. All are probably accurate. Just don’t forget to call me if you’re headed for the ballpark because I still love the three hours when the game is actually played.

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