Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Take Me Out OF The Ballgame

I watch a lot of baseball games because I love a) the game itself and 2) my Orioles.  Maybe not even in that order, but I marvel at the men who can throw a baseball 60' 6" and hit a strike zone not much bigger than some totebags, or men who can hit that baseball 450' or run and catch a ball that someone else hit.

The ballplayers I was raised watching had names like Clint "Scrap Iron" Courtney and Enos "Country" Slaughter, monikers that left no doubt about their commitment to hustling and giving every ounce of the effort they had as they cavorted around in soggy wet flannel uniforms.  And I am happy to see that I rarely if ever see a poor or lackadaisical effort on the part of my local nine, rakishly clad in tailored polyester as they are.  Sure, they make mistakes; they drop balls, they throw the wrong pitch in the wrong place to the wrong hitter, and they strike out.  As is often said, baseball is the only endeavor where you can be a huge star by being successful 3 out of 10 times.  It's not the results, it's the effort.

And that brings me to this Bryce Harper fellow who plays for the Washington Nationals.  On Saturday, his turn at bat resulted in a grounder back to the mound, so he jogged halfway to first base and then veered off to run to the dugout even before the play was complete.  Sure, it's one time in a thousand that this play doesn't result in an out, but the point is, a true competitor (and showman, because let's face it, these people are entertainers as much as athletes) gives full effort every time on every play.

No kidding: Harper's investments include ownership
 of a company that sells that eyeblack goo. Here,
he models two weeks' worth of his product.
For his blatant dogging (and is that fair to dogs, who always run when we play with them?) Harper was shown to a seat on the bench, the ultimate humiliation for a man who apparently considers himself the greatest ballplayer who ever lived.  I have to applaud the Washington manager, Matt Williams.  If he doesn't expect the big stars to follow the little rules, how can he expect the rest of the team to do so?

Thomas Boswell, writing of this in the Washington Post, says there are two kinds of ballplayers: those who have been humbled, and those who are about to be humbled.  I think that works for all of us in whatever walk of life we pursue. As another writer long ago put it: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."

And while I'm picking on baseball players, let me say this to the Boston Red Sox:  just because you don't swing at a pitch does not necessarily mean it's not a strike.  The O's just played these people four games, and every time a strike was called on a Red Sock, you would have thought the umpire was asking to commit an act of defenestration with the guy's sister, so great were their looks of outrage and dismay.

Batter up!

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