B is for Baseball

THANK GOD “B” is the second letter of the alphabet, because I have been dying to tell Baseball how I feel about him for some time now, and I am so relieved that I don’t have to wait any longer.

Baseball, I LOVE YOU. There.

Baseball2ALERT: For those of you who, upon hearing the word “baseball,” feel the sudden urge to yawn, don’t skip this post! I have included this little visual treat to keep your eyes from glossing over.

So here’s a little background on the “B” activity.

Every year at my school, the seventh graders write essays that are based on the NPR series “This I Believe.” They are personal, honest, and often touching declarations that challenge the thirteen year old mind to dig deep; they examine themselves and their core values. It’s a REALLY GREAT EXERCISE. And every year, I promise those little sweethearts that I’ll write one of my own. And so the familiar scene played out again last month. Them asking, “so what did you write about, Ashley?” Me, dodging the question, “Hey, sooo ahhh what’s up with that Justin Bieber dude, anyway?” I simply cannot live with the guilt any longer.

So, below you will find my attempt at This-I-Believing it. Thanks to Jodi for the advice and edits. Even though it is still a work in progress, you all can thank her for improving upon the wretched, mind-barfy first draft.

Oh, and did I mention, we literally force them to read their essays out loud a là NPR? Therefore, everybody, I have taken this as an opportunity to practice what I preach. As I prepared this recording (found below), I realize now why some of them might burst into tears or run screaming to the bathroom. It’s HARD to read something personal out loud! But, Alphabet Summer is all about “trying new things,” and “stepping out of one’s comfort zone,” and all that...

If you want to listen (you may have to click on the m4a file link after the word "Download"):

[audio http://alphabetsummer.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/ibelieveinbaseball.m4a]

If you want to read:

I believe in baseball. The game of baseball. Baseball is numbers. It’s technique. It’s skill and luck, it’s human error and precise measurements. Baseball is humility. Baseball is pride. Baseball is a marathon and a sprint. Baseball is disappointment. Baseball is celebration. Baseball is life.

Echoing the ins and outs of the human existence, the game itself is a thing of beauty. Sometimes the shortstop is out in the dusty field, unsure about what’s coming his way, but knowing that the batter is looking to smash the ball over his head. And sometimes he’s up to bat, his sole responsibility is to get something going, all eyes waiting to see what he’ll do with the pitch thrown. Baseball can be so dog-gone slow, dragging on and on for hours into the middle of the night. Or, it can be fast. Double plays, grand slams, stolen bases... the course of the game changing depending on how the ball leaves the pitcher’s fingers.

Sometimes, players slump. They strike out every time they get to the plate. People talk about what’s going on with them and then they get all messed up in their head about it. Or whack... they finally hit the ball but it goes right into the shortstop's glove. But then... sometimes they get hot. On FIRE. Man, when it rains, it pours. A twelve game hitting streak, hitting it out of the park in consecutive games, or maybe they even bat through the cycle or win triple crowns.

Quite often, players get humbled. If the basic mechanics aren’t there, then the pitcher will never consistently throw that curve ball. They make mistakes, they watch the people around them make mistakes. They go on the disabled list. They pitch a shutout into the 8th inning, and the closer can’t seal the deal. They lose some.

But it’s all a part of something bigger. It’s you, it’s the pitcher, it’s the catcher’s throw to second, it’s the warm-up swings, it’s the signs from the third base coach. It’s the sacrifice squeeze, it’s the right fielder on the warning tracks, it’s the person who sews the number on the back of the uniforms, it’s their high school coaches. It’s the manager’s long walk out to the mound, it’s the high-five to the guy who got the sacrifice out, it’s the seventh inning stretch. It’s the sunflower seeds, it’s that punching gesture the home plate umpire makes on a called third strike, it’s the belly flop slide into home.

Turns out it’s not hard to pinpoint the things I love about baseball. A distraction, an obsession, a pastime, a tradition. The game can be magical, inspirational, heart-breaking. It’s perfectly imperfect. What more could you ask for in this life? This, I believe.

Hey you! Did you click on the "This I Believe" link up there? It's an essay that Jackie Robinson wrote in 1952. It's pretty cool.