Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Everything That is Right With Baseball

Ah, the opening week of the season. No matter how pessimistic one can be, you have to take a little vacation from the feelings of dread and disappointment to entertain the possibilities of what a new season means. I've loved baseball since I was a little tot. My father was an usher at the local minor league stadium and even though I wasn't good at it, I absolutely adored the sport. As I grew older, my love never waned. My wife was the first woman I've ever thought about spending my life with, but she wasn't my first love. That mistress was baseball and in the immortal words of Sammy Sosa, she been berry, berry good to me.

So, instead of an article of analysis on who was released or what free agent the Braves should sign or whatever, here's my moment to appreciate baseball. I must admit that this style isn't new. I was influenced by Grant Brisbee's article from last year to give this a shot. There may be overlap, but I don't really care. This isn't about reinventing the wheel - this is about showing how much I love baseball.

Deep breath.

And here we go.
  1. Seventh inning stretch
  2. Going out of your mind when the little speedster hits a walk-off homerun.
  3. Being part of a crowd of fans going out of their mind when a little speedster hits a walk-off homerun.
  4. Jason Heyward going first-to-home on a double (miss ya, Heyward).
  5. A catcher about to throw the ball back to the pitcher, but pauses in mid-throw because the umpire called an obvious strike a ball.
  6. Stealing a strike on an obvious ball because of pitch framing.
  7. Watching announcers so sure the umpire got it wrong be perplexed when their pitch charting software proves the umpire right.
  8. Eye black.
  9. Ridiculous amounts of eye black.
  10. Major League.
  11. The fact that Charlie Sheen actually looks like a real pitcher in Major League.
  12. Adults that really don't want to, but ultimately surrender a foul ball to a kid. 
  13. Bats that explode.
  14. Watching infielders field a ball on instinct as the remains of a bat comes flying at them.
  15. Pitchers reaching out with their bare hand at a comebacker, potentially costing them millions of dollars if they get hurt doing so.
  16. On-base percentage.
  17. Fielding Independent Pitching.
  18. The fact that WAR is on baseball cards now.
  19. Going through your old baseball card collection.
  20. The Sandlot.
  21. When three fielders converge on the same spot and all three watch the ball fall rather than catch it.
  22. Stealing third base.
  23. Perfect relays on a throw from the warning track to home plate.
  24. People stumbling out of the batting box.
  25. Players giving the stink eye to fans who didn't move away from a foul ball that just reaches the stands.
  26. A switch-pitcher
  27. Seeing your rebuilding team in first place on opening day and for the briefest of seconds, thinking it can last.
  28. Showing bunt and swinging away.
  29. Bunting a double.
  30. Moneyball.
  31. Watching people who have no idea what Moneyball was whine about how stats are killing baseball.
  32. Balls that get stuck in gloves.
  33. Pitchers who have to throw the glove with the ball stuck in it to first base.
  34. Believing that a 16 year-old kid from the Dominican Republic will be your organization's savior.
  35. Watching fans on Twitter go absolutely bonkers when their team loses.
  36. People who get upset about who was snubbed by the All-Star Game selection process.
  37. That helpless feeling an outfielder gets when he loses the ball in the sun.
  38. Outfielders holding up the glove even though they didn't catch the ball after diving or leaping for it.
  39. Players losing track of how many outs are in the inning.
  40. Bull Durham.
  41. Players trying to run away from their team during a walk-off celebration.
  42. Game-saving catches.
  43. Game-saving catches that seem impossible. 
  44. Alumnae/Turn-Back-the-Clock Games.
  45. Standing ovations for players returning to their former team's ballpark for the first time.
  46. Being old enough to see players get their number retired whose entire career you watched.
  47. Explaining what a balk is.
  48. Being unable to speak when a walk-off balk occurs.
  49. Having faith that even if this isn't our season, next year totally is.
  50. Field of Dreams.
  51. Extra-inning games that go on forever.
  52. Fans that stick it out at the park for extra innings games that go on forever.
  53. Knowing that tomorrow, you're really going to regret staying up for this game on the west coast.
  54. Watching your organization's minor league players play a game on half-priced ticket night.
  55. Watching a player making $20 million play a single-A game on a rehab assignment.
  56. The look a player gives the umpire after he's took two steps to first when he thought he earned a walk, but gets told to come back
  57. Hitters being told to bunt, failing, and then getting a hit anyway.
  58. Double steals.
  59. Bringing in an outfielder to be a fifth infielder.
  60. Eight Men Out.
  61. Discussions over who was better, Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron?
  62. Willie Mays or Ted Williams?
  63. Bob Gibson or Nolan Ryan?
  64. Christy Mathewson or Walter Johnson?
  65. Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux or Randy Johnson?
  66. Jeff Treadway or Mark Lemke?
  67. Bunting against the shift with a slow first baseman.
  68. Step-offs, slide-steps, and throw-overs with an 75+ grade basestealer on first.
  69. 2-1 games where you are amazed that so many runs actually scored.
  70. The Bad News Bears. The Original.
  71. Crossing up the catcher.
  72. Third baseman chargng a grounder, bare-handing it, and throwing a strike to first.
  73. Relievers calmly catching homeruns in the bullpen.
  74. Jumping over the baseline on the way to the dugout after the last out of an inning
  75. Strike 'em out, throw 'em out double plays to end an inning.
  76. Listening to rain delayed baseball on the radio where they beg for questions from listeners.
  77. Position players pitching.
  78. Position players not taking pitching seriously ala Jonny Gomes.
  79. The face of players when they hit a ball hard, but right at someone.
  80. Little Big League
  81. Andrelton Simmons diving.
  82. Andrelton Simmons throwing.
  83. Andrelton Simmons planting and turning in mid-air as if he's an angel to throw a perfect throw to first.
  84. Andrelton Simmons getting to a blooper to left field when the left fielder is still 10 steps away.
  85. Andrelton Simmons jumping over an incoming baserunner to throw out the runner at first.
  86. Just Andrelton Simmons being Andrelton Simmons.
  87. The way Chip Carey gets carried away on a flyball to medium-depth right field. 
  88. Jim Powell's calm excitement.
  89. Vin Scully. 
  90. Ken Burns' Baseball
  91. Discovering a player from the early 1900's you've never heard of.
  92. Learning more about a player you thought you knew everything about.
  93. The sound the donut weight makes when players force it off their bats.
  94. The feeling of apprehension when you're sitting on the third base side and a left-handed batter is at the plate. I got my glove ready - bring it!
  95. The no-doubters Justin Upton hit as a Brave.
  96. When players think they've smacked a homer and aren't running hard only to find out the ball hits the outfield wall...
  97. ...or better yet, it's caught.
  98. Bat flips.
  99. Shortstops waiting until the last possible second to throw out baserunners at first by a step.
  100. 42.
  101. Pitchers covering first and trying desperately to find the bag with their foot.
  102. Sliding away from the tag.
  103. Over-running the bag and having to corkscrew your body around to get back.
  104. Over-sliding the bag and being tagged out.
  105. Smacking the ball so hard that it hit the wall and bounced back to the outfielder, who limits the runner to a single.
  106. Catchers sliding to their knees to retrieve a wild pitch and throwing back to home to get the runner with the pitcher covering the plate
  107. Infielders waiting on a ball to go foul...but it doesn't.
  108. The way a puff of white chalk flies into the air when a liner lands on the foul line.
  109. Diving for a ball feet first right into the foul-territory wall.
  110. Mr. Baseball.
  111. Homeruns
  112. No-doubt homers that the pitcher immediately curses.
  113. No-doubt dingers that the outfielder only turns to admire.
  114. Walk-off Grand Slams hit by Brooks Conrad.
  115. Pitchers hitting homers.
  116. Inside-the-park homeruns.
  117. Hitting a homer that curves around the foul pole.
  118. Hitting the foul pole on a homer.
  119. Hitting a three run homer, down by two, with two outs, in the ninth inning.
  120. 61*
  121. An infielder throwing out a runner at the plate with the infield drawn in.
  122. Watching the dugout scatter when a foul ball comes their way.
  123. Watching fans behind home plate duck when a foul ball comes their way - despite the net.
  124. Breaks for when a beach ball lands in the outfield.
  125. Breaks for when a pitch gets away from a reliever in the bullpen.
  126. Fans booing the other team for throwing over to keep a runner close.
  127. Fans booing an umpire for a call that they can't even get a good look at.
  128. Rosterbating during the offseason.
  129. Rosterbating at the trade deadline.
  130. The Pride of the Yankees.
  131. Trying to pitch around a hitter, but still getting burned when he gulfs a ball into the gap.
  132. Succeeding at pitching around a hitter only to get burned by the next hitter.
  133. Listening to announcers hilariously try to pronounce off-the-wall names.
  134. The fact that baseball gives us Dizzy Dean.
  135. ...and Milton Bradley.
  136. ...and Tim Spooneybarger.
  137. Or for that matter, baseball gives us nicknames like the Crime Dog (Fred McGriff)
  138. ...the Say-Hey Kid 
  139. ...the Chairman of the Board (Whitey Ford)
  140. ...even The Babe.
  141. Ken Griffey Jr.'s swing.
  142. Mike Trout's everything.
  143. Bryce Harper's refusal to conform.
  144. Tom Glavine's stubbornness.
  145. Craig Kimbrel's dominance.
  146. Andres Galarraga's perseverance.
  147. Ichiro's arm.
  148. Billy Hamilton's speed.
  149. Andrew McCutchen. Period. End of sentence.
  150. Fever Pitch.
  151. The way baseball makes us feel like if we move from our seat, something bad will happen.
  152. ...or that by moving, we might create some weird butterfly effect to help our team.
  153. That by just playing catch, you feel like a kid again.
  154. Knowing that when Giancarlo Stanton swings, it could be a special event.
  155. Breaking balls in the dirt that make the most elite hitters in baseball look like uncoordinated teenagers.
  156. Breaking balls in the dirt that make catchers close their eyes and hope for the best.
  157. How an umpire walks around, inspects the ball, slowly tosses it back to the pitcher, and wipes off the plate - all to allow the catcher time to recover after a ball found the jewels.
  158. Excitedly following a prospect until he arrives in the majors.
  159. AAAA guys getting a chance and succeeding.
  160. Trouble With the Curve.
  161. That time each decade where managers have to put a pitcher in the outfield.
  162. Middle infielders covering their faces with their gloves to designate which one goes for the bag.
  163. Middle infielders with so much chemistry that they can predict what the other will do.
  164. Rituals between outfielders after the last out of a game is recorded.
  165. Having the feeling when watching a player like Andruw Jones do his thing, you are seeing something so special, you may never see it again.
  166. The rosen bag.
  167. Guessing along with the hitter on what the next pitch will be - and being right.
  168. Guessing along with the hitter on what the next pitch will be - and being right but the hitter is wrong.
  169. "Excuse-me" swings that lead to hits.
  170. A League of Their Own.
  171. Just about everything about Joe Maddon
  172. David Price's love for baseball - and his dog.
  173. Dollar-beer night (provided the kids are at home).
  174. When pitchers pat their chest after hitting a guy to say, "my fault."
  175. A litany of scouts behind home plate.
  176. Watching a guy rise from the independent leagues to the majors.
  177. Peter Moylan.
  178. Watching a pitcher thank any number of Gods when a fielder bails them out after throwing a terrible pitch.
  179. Quirky, stupid wind-ups.
  180. For Love of the Game.
  181. When players take less money to play for a contender.
  182. Hometown kids playing for the team they grew up loving and doing well.
  183. Parents watching nervously as their kid plays their first game.
  184. Ugly combinations of food product passed off as as actual food.
  185. Middle infielders deeking out baserunners at second base.
  186. Batters swinging and connecting on a pitch in self-defense.
  187. Pitchers wearing their jackets on the base-paths.
  188. Pitchers being used as pinch runners.
  189. Watching baseball anywhere at anytime because we live in 2016.
  190. Soul of the Game.
  191. Opening Day.
  192. A real opening day on the first Monday of April.
  193. Minor league rosters revealed for the first time.
  194. Being able to trace back a team's history to nearly 150 years.
  195. First-round draft picks getting to the majors.
  196. 52nd-round draft picks getting to the majors.
  197. Scouts finding some kid nobody wanted to draft and having that guy get to the majors.
  198. The fact that you can have an economics background and be a great general manager.
  199. Hitting the pitcher eighth.
  200. Rookie of the Year
  201. Rundowns that last forever.
  202. Julio Franco.
  203. Relief pitchers batting.
  204. Umpires looking completely lost and praying another umpire saw the play better than them.
  205. Ridiculous games in-between innings at minor league games.
  206. Baseball trivia questions.
  207. Socks up.
  208. Craig Kimbrel's hat.
  209. The fact that Craig Kimbrel's absolutely ticks people off.
  210. Major League 2.
  211. No batting gloves.
  212. The fact that Evan Gattis's story exists.
  213. Silent celebrations after a homerun/walkoff before everyone cracks up.
  214. Fan clubs in the stands for players coming up with ridiculous traditions. 
  215. Rally caps.
  216. Players wearing rally caps.
  217. Rookies being hazed into wearing absurd outfits. 
  218. Beat writers getting frustrated on twitter.
  219. Fourth of July fireworks while sitting in the outfield.
  220. Knuckleball!
  221. Players that play along with the hecklers.
  222. Being that nerd who sits in the stands with a scorebook, a glove, and being so happy to live in that moment.
I could probably continue, but I think you get the point.

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