July 22, 2024

Re-falling in love with America’s pastime


This archived article was written by: David Osborne Jr.

It feels really weird to be writing this as I know that before this hits the press, baseball season will be over and either the Kansas City Royals or the San Francisco Giants will be crowned as World Series champions. Either way, it is something that must be written for it is absolutely true. I have completely re-fallen in love with America’s pastime. It is no secret to those around me that for the past decade or so (as a side note that makes me sound really old), baseball and I have had a shaky relationship.
I remember the early ‘90s when guys like Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, John Smoltz, Jeff Bagwell, Greg Maddux and way too many more to count, graced the baseball diamond. I didn’t know any different and if you had asked a 5 or 6 year-old me I would have said that we were in the golden age of baseball.
All I wanted to do was be like one of these great players. I would spend countless summer afternoons at baseball practice playing at least three games a week in the city of Riverton, Utah, in the Babe Ruth league which meant two games during the week and one on Saturday morning. It was heaven on Earth and the smell of fresh cut grass still brings back those memories of me standing either in right field or standing near second base.
Then life happened, and I ran into it, just like running full speed, face first into the fence in right-center field trying to run down a high-fly ball and not seeing the warning track. First, I realized I wasn’t that athletic and my baseball career ended. Second, I realized that the game of baseball wasn’t as pure as it seemed. There was the steroid scandal where Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were juicing when they played for the Oakland Athletics.
I guess we should have been tipped off, I mean if you have ever seen McGwire’s rookie card and a card from the year that he broke Hank Aaron’s home run record, it is a drastic difference. Of course, then there was Barry Bonds, but we can just overlook that whole fiasco because the whole Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid scandal can be rolled into one lump sum.
There were other scandals in baseball, the Chicago Cubs had a great hitter in Sammy Sosa, but there was an incident in which he “accidentally” grabbed a corked bat. Strictly speaking, statistically the average wood bat used today by major league baseball players weighs on average between 30 and 35 ounces. While a corked bat weighs anywhere between one and a half ounces to five ounces less than the normal bat, that is a pretty hefty difference and wonder how you wouldn’t notice.
But I digress, the early 2000s was not a good time for the relationship between baseball and me. There were highlights that I enjoyed like watching Randy Johnson disintegrate a bird with a pitch and still have enough velocity to get the ball to the plate and have a strike called. Then there was the Red Sox ending their drought. They came back from 3-0 against the New York Yankees and won the World Series for the first time in 86 years, thus ending the Curse of the Bambino.
My confidence slowly began to grow again, but was still guarded until one fateful day in the middle of August 2014, my one and half year-old daughter flipped through channels and got excited about the Little League World Series and we started watching baseball. Of course we saw the story lines of that tournament including the sensational Mo’ne Davis, watching the Jackie Robinson West team representing Illinois, and teams from the heart of Chicago, Ill., win the American side of the tournament and then lose to the South Korean team.
When the Little League World Series ended, we had to get our fix somewhere else so we started watching major league baseball and it became an almost nightly routine if we could find a game to watch. As I watched more and more baseball, my love began to grow, kind of like the Grinch’s heart growing from three sizes too small to almost too large after saving Cindy Lou Who and deciding to save the Who’s Christmas. As September came to an end and the rush for the play-offs started is really when I let my guard down. The walls officially came crashing down during the American League Division Wild Card Game between the Athletics and the Royals. Baseball had become exciting again and was not necessarily about the homerun, instead it had almost returned to the ‘80s and ‘90s when teams wanted doubles and singles and then worked to move the base runner around the bags with sacrifice fly outs and bunts.
As the American League games and National League games continued to move on, that love became deeper and deeper. The great part is, I don’t really care who wins the World Series (that would be a different story if the Atlanta Braves were playing and Jones was playing third). In fact since baseball will be over for the year when this newspaper comes out, I can say, I can’t wait for the return of baseball.