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Lorton: There’s nothing like baseball (Feb. 20)

Isaac Lorton | Wednesday, February 20, 2013

 

Baseball is synonymous with the seasons. 

It is not summer – it is the regular season. It is not fall – it is Mr. October and Mr. November. It is not winter – it is the offseason. It is not spring because Punxsutawney Phil says it is – it is spring because pitchers and catchers reported.

Yes, the best time in sports is here again, and everyone should be excited that baseball is back because baseball is more American than George Washington eating apple pie on the back of an eagle.   

The NFL can have the title of America’s favorite sport because baseball is, and always will be, America’s pastime.

But what does it mean to be a pastime? 

If you Google “pastime,” you get the following definition: “An activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work.”

Many things fit into this classification, including Googling, finger painting, stamp collecting, model building or even watching football or basketball, but describing baseball as a pastime implies more than that. 

Baseball encompasses a culture unlike that of any other sport.  

No other sport can match the quirks and traditions of baseball. Every fan is a statistician. Stats are thrown around like a ping-pong ball on the weekends. There are, of course, the traditional stats and the eye test to judge players, but WHIPs, DIPS, LIPS and even VORPs are also used to judge players performances (Walks+Hits/Innings Pitched, Defense Independent Pitching Stats, Late-Inning Pressure Situations, Value Over Replacement Player). In no other sport are fans so caught up in the statistics of the game. Baseball is just engaging in that way. 

And if you are not a stats fan, then maybe you are a superstitious fan. Superstitious tendencies in baseball, which make Voodoo look tame, are commonplace. Wade Boggs, for example, ate the same meal before every game, took batting practice at precisely 5:17 p.m. every night game, took exactly 150 ground balls during warm-ups and wrote the Hebrew word “chai,” which means life, in the batter’s box before every at-bat. It’s hard to argue with two Gold Gloves and a .328 career batting average. There are strict routines to be followed, there are celebrations that must be observed and there are, of course, slump busters. Mark Grace and Jason Giambi can attest to that. The compulsive tendencies in everyone feel at home when watching baseball. 

Baseball is an extraordinary, average person’s sport.

Where else do you get to see an athlete with incredible physique, like Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval, compete at the highest level of his or her respective sport? Athletes come in all shapes and sizes, from fun-sized Dustin Pedroia to bean stalk Randy Johnson. The diversity of the athletes appeals to people everywhere. Not all baseball players are elite physical specimens; they are Prince Fielder and Ichiro Suzuki and Yadier Molina. All future Hall of Famers, but not all the same blueprint. There is a baseball player (or at least a closer) out there for every person. There are oddballs like Brian Wilson. There are intense guys like Jose Valverde. There are class acts like Mariano Rivera. And there are guys everyone loves to hate like Byung-Hyun Kim (maybe that’s just me). Baseball is a sport we can all relate to.       

But then again, maybe the tradition holds your attention. 

Baseball is a storyteller. From baseball’s first official rules in 1846 made by the Knickerbockers to the post-steroid era, there are countless stories on and off the field of why baseball is steadfastly in the fiber of the American flag. Baseball is incredible because it offers a little bit of everything for everybody.  

So dust off your hat, grab yourself a dog and a drink, sit back and relax – baseball is back. 

 

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.