Play Ball! by Thad Mumau

This is my favorite time of year. The grass turning green doesn’t so much signal spring to me as it sends the reminder that baseball season is right around the corner.

I’m a baseball lover. Not a fan, because that word doesn’t do justice to how I feel about what I reverently call The Game.

Growing up, I played cow pasture ball, where games were marked not by innings but by entire afternoons. Where ground rules were made to deal with cow paddies and sand spurs and finding ways to get outs in battles of three-on-three.

Opening Day is always grand. The national holiday for optimists. So much hope, so much promise, so many questions. Will the phenoms be flops? Can those speedballers avoid Tommy John surgery? Will rosters bolstered by off-season transactions stay healthy?

I go way back, having followed baseball closely more than 60 years. It all started during an era that had me thinking the World Series was an annual showdown of Dodgers and Yankees. I’m thinking they could meet again this October.

Radio is a wonderful medium for baseball. My dad introduced me to the game by buying me a glove when I was eight years old and then playing catch with me almost every evening when he got home from work. Summer nights often found us hovered over an old radio, listening to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ games on KDKA.

There is nothing like being at the ballpark, whether it’s the major or minor leagues. There’s just something about vendors hawking peanuts and hot dogs, all that green grass in front of you and seeing the whole landscape, foul line to foul line.

Listening to baseball on the radio is a close second. I much prefer doing that to watching on TV. I subscribe to an MLB service that allows me to hear every game, choosing which team’s announcers I want to hear.

This is done through a computer, and every bit of the action is clear as a bell. Nothing like enduring torrents of static to catch a tiny piece of play by play the way my dad and I did.

Looming like an ominous cloud over this season is Major League Baseball’s mission to ruin a very good thing. The plan is to put a time clock on pitchers in an effort to speed up the game. There is even the preposterous notion of putting a runner on second to begin any inning after the tenth in hopes that someone will score sooner and everyone can go home.

What is the matter with these people? If folks want to leave a game, they can do so at any time. Most of them don’t care how long a contest takes; they just enjoy being there. Heck, I remember pulling for the game to be tied up after nine innings so I could stay longer.

There are those who say baseball is boring. They complain about meetings on the mound and all the pitching changes. Those of us who love the sport for what it is embrace the nuances. Spending so-called lulls figuring whether a bunt will be called for or if the next batter may be walked intentionally.

That’s part of baseball’s attraction. There are many more – the artistry of a perfectly executed hit-and-run; the beauty of hitting a cutoff man that leads to a precision relay; a successful squeeze bunt.

Baseball is much more than 100-mile-per-hour fastballs, prodigious homers, and runs, hits and errors.

So much more.

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