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Prister: Baseball’s beauty is in the smallest details (Oct. 28)

Eric Prister | Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“Baseball is 100 times more interesting to me now than it was 45 minutes ago.”

I heard these words after attempting to explain some of the intricacies of America’s pastime to someone who can only be described as a baseball novice.

We had just watched the last three innings of the World Series betweenthe St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers, a game in which the Rangers had come back to win in spectacular fashion. And while most baseball games are interesting if one knows what to look for, games like this one are what make the sport, one which is so often criticized for being boring, great.

In the top of the ninth inning, after the Cardinals had taken a 1-0 lead in the seventh, the Rangers were down to their last three outs. A loss would have meant going down 2-0 in the series, a hole that, though not insurmountable, would not have been desirable in the least.

Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler led off the inning with a single, and then stole second base. And that’s when the entire momentum of the game, and the momentum of the series, changed in just one play.

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus hit another, seemingly routine base hit. Kinsler advanced to third and Andrus took second base when the throw from the outfield ricocheted off the glove of the Cardinals all-world first baseman Albert Pujols.

To a casual observer, this may have appeared as simply a physical mistake by Pujols which led to the Rangers scoring two runs in the inning, rather than just one. But it was so much more than that.

When Kinsler saw that Andrus’ single was going to fall in the outfield, he took off from second base hard and rounded third like he was going to score. The Rangers third base coach had to move nearly halfway down the third base line to give Kinsler the stop signal.

Pujols took his eye off the ball, just for a split second, noticing Kinsler rounding third base with a full head of steam. But that split second was all that it took for him to misplay the throw, allowing Andrus to take second base.

This may seem like an incredibly miniscule occurence in a long game, and it is.

But that’s what makes baseball so great, the most miniscule things can become the most important.

Baseball is a game of centimeters, a game of milliseconds. It is a game that can be affected by a blink of eye, a pebble in the dirt or the glare of the sun that cuts off a player’s vision for just an instant.

The difference between a strike and a ball can be nearly imperceptible, but it can be the difference between a strikeout and a walk, the difference between a win and a loss, the difference between a championship and just another season that ended without a ring.

Baseball certainly looks boring, and can actually be boring in some circumstances. But the Pujols error was not just an error. It was the product of a multitude of thoughts racing through his head, all of which he is expected to handle without pause. He took his eye off the ball for just one moment, but in that moment may have lost his team the World Series.

Baseball truly is a riveting sport. You just need to know where to look.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.                                                                                                                                   Contact Eric Prister at eprister @nd.edu