Baseball is a topic that I often wrote about when I first started this blog years ago, but the sport—at least the major league version—has become a decreasing interest. It’s not just the players breaking their contract to entertain in favor of making political statements last year, it’s the major league style of play, and the way the majors are managed that leave me yawning or scratching my head.
Major league play has evolved into what are known as the “three true outcomes,” which is to say a walk, a strikeout, or a home run. This style has eliminated the need for the defensive wizardry of a Mark Belanger or an Ozzie Smith, because if you don’t put the ball in play, then, it obviously doesn’t need to be defended. Heretofore, defense has always been an important part of the game and an exciting part, but baseball’s modern style has diminished the most athletic part of the game.
Then, there is the idiocy that is Major League Baseball’s management. A prime example, perhaps the prime example, is the placement of a runner on second base to begin extra innings, a practice which resulted in the following absurdity: Last Thursday, Norfolk knuckleballer Mickey Jannis threw five perfect innings in relief, but took the loss, because the runner that he did not allow, was sacrificed to third, then scored on a sacrifice fly. Fifteen up and fifteen down, but Jannis takes the L. How in the name of Walter Johnson can that kind of buffoonery be sanctioned?
My passion for the game of baseball has not diminished, however. In fact, it has flourished watching college baseball, particularly the Southeastern Conference (SEC) games. The ballparks in the SEC are jewels, the fans are passionate, the uniforms range from classic (Ole Miss, for example) to bizarre (Vanderbilt’s black with gold pinstripes, for example), and most importantly, the talent is top notch. The broadcasters are also top-notch, and Ben McDonald is a prime example of that. He could make junior varsity tiddly winks sound fun and entertaining.
Defense in college baseball, while not as proficient as at the professional level, is at least still quite relevant to the game. Starting pitchers often last beyond the 5th inning. The commercial breaks are shorter.
If the modern major league game has drained your passion, then I strongly recommend the college game, especially the Southeastern Conference. It just so happens that their conference tournament begins tomorrow at 10:30, with three more games to follow that one. It will conclude on Sunday, May 30th, so you have an opportunity throughout the week to try it out. Here is a link to the SEC’s tournament schedule.
Sixty-four teams from around the country will make the national regional tournament, which begins Friday, June 4th. This is followed by the super regionals, and finally the College World Series, which begins Saturday, June 19th. And when that concludes, there is plenty of college summer baseball that runs through the end of July, probably somewhere close to where you live. I’ll be rooting for the New Market Rebels and the Dubois County Bombers this summer, and I get just as much of a thrill walking into Rebel Park or League Stadium as I do Camden Yards. More so, really, especially since the hot dogs are better and cheaper, “traffic” in and out of the ballparks is non-existent, and I know that whomever I’m sitting with is a real baseball fan.
And I can also be assured that no pitcher will retire all 15 batters he faces, only to lose.