BASEBALL LIKE IT OUGHT TO BE!

13 07 2017

baseball

 

I have been a Baseball Fan pretty much all of my life. The first time my Dad taught me the game, I knew I was hooked. He passed on his legacy to me that included being a devastated Brooklyn Dodger Fan whose heart got broken when the team packed up and moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950’s. With no other National League Team to root for, he adopted the Amazing Mets to cheer for when they came on the scene in 1962. I followed my Dad in this allegiance and began wearing a wardrobe that consisted mostly of orange and blue ever since.

 I adored the loveable losers of the early days in Mets History. I followed them in the newspapers, checking the Box Scores daily. I taught myself how to keep score of a baseball game. I would memorize and then reproduce every Player’s batting stance which in turn made me a switch hitter early in my own career. I begged Dad every year to take me to Shea Stadium, and finally he did. I will never forget the awe I experienced when I first saw a Mets Game in living color because, up until then, I watched them in glorious black and white on Channel 9 WOR Network out of New York. I truly thought I had died and gone to Heaven and when I got Gil Hodges and Tom Seaver’s autograph, I was sent to another stratosphere.

 I used to work with my Dad, cleaning local doctors’ offices on Tuesday and Thursday Nights and Saturday Mornings. His reward to me for doing so was to give me 25 cents, which I in turn would go right out and buy five packs of Baseball Cards. They were only a nickel a piece back then. It even came with a stick of gum that tasted like cardboard, but I would always chew it faithfully when I was on the mound pitching or playing First Base for our Little League Team, Gogel Tires. My Dad shared with me the nightmare of having his Mother throw out all of his cards after he left for the Navy, so you can be sure I was not going to let that happen to me. To this day, I still have all of my Baseball Cards of my childhood. My Wife asks me, “Why don’t you sell them?” I reply, “It would be like auctioning off a piece of my soul.”

 I have tried to get my Sons into collecting Baseball Cards but they never got serious about it like I did. I realize that times have changed and unfortunately with that, so have the players. It is hard for me to watch what goes on these days in the Major Leagues. For example, Ballplayers strike out at an alarming rate.  This would have sent them to the Minors back in the day, but as long as they hit 20-30 homeruns, they are millionaires.  I hate when a hitter can’t make contact to drive a runner in from 3rd Base when there are less than two outs. I roll my eyes when I don’t see the hustle of Pete Rose or the fierce competitiveness of Bob Gibson. I could never imagine Tom Seaver or Nolan Ryan begging to get out of a game with only 100 pitches to their credit. And the amount of time some guys spend on the disabled list is just downright wrong!

 The other night I witnessed an outfielder for the Mets not even attempting to run to first after he struck out swinging but the catcher dropped the ball and it went to the backstop. It was like the player couldn’t be bothered. That would have meant a certain benching back in my day. The Manager explained later that the reason he didn’t run was that he didn’t want to put pressure on his hamstrings when it wasn’t necessary. Are you kidding me? If a GM and Manager are afraid of offending the players enough to correct them, how is this ever going to become a better product on the field? Another player is too injured to be in the night game but not so much that he won’t play a round of golf in the daytime. And yet he will still get far more money in a year that I might ever see in a lifetime. Something is very wrong here but have we reached the point of no return? I would say so!

Much like I abandoned the NBA years ago because it became nothing more than a glorified one on one exercise, I am tempted to seek greener pastures for the American Pastime. There are many days I teach my Son Joel what not to do when we watch a Mets Game together! Business has ruined the Game I loved, but at least I have my precious memories of an earlier time.

 I remember fondly the times that we kids would just play ball in the sandlots every day and didn’t need much adult supervision. I look back to the days when being on a Baseball Team was an honor and a privilege and we players hung on to all the words of our Coaches. We listened and learned and improved. When I fell in love with Major League Baseball, the players were just regular guys who also had to work in the winter just to make ends meet. It was a day when the Game was the thing and not just an avenue for personal glory, advertising endorsements and making an insane amount of money. Not everything improves with age. And in a day where our younger generation needs positive role models more than ever, we are not discovering true treasure out on the diamonds!

 So Parents, don’t force your kids to sign up for a sport they don’t even have an interest in. Teach them to listen and learn from their Coaches. Model for them what good sportsmanship looks like. Relax and go have a catch. Never forget it’s a game at heart.  


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