Last year, about 2/3 of the way through a remarkable season for the Texas Rangers, I went out to the park for one of my favorite nights of the year. Jamey Newberg, the Godfather of fan-driven baseball blogs, was throwing his annual “Newberg Report Night”. I’ve known Jamey for a few years now and I really look forward to the opportunity to grab a beer and catch up with him and his assorted crew. Last year, I ended up sitting, for a bit, with a scout dressed up as a writer. Jason Parks and I bonded over mutual acquaintances, art, and taste in music, but the interesting part for me was to watch him and his esteemed colleague, Kevin Goldstein, watch baseball. Perched in a luxury suite on the third base side, about even with the left fielder, I’ll never forget Parks commenting on how starting pitcher Tommy Hunter’s “ball was really boring in on the hitters”. We’re like, I don’t know, a hundred fucking yards away from the mound and this hawkeyed freak is noticing the movement of a 93 mph pitch? Awesome. The point, other than to make me look like a name-dropping ass in my first post, is that the game is something different to so many people.
We’re on the doorstep of another long season. There’s a million cliches about “trial and tribulations”, “ups and downs”, etc. The season is long. Like, directors-cut long. But from time to time it is magical and throughout the entire ride, it is something different to so many different people. I guess that’s what makes it an inherent thread in the fabric of our country’s culture. One fan’s relentless obsession with Josh Hamilton’s personal story is counterbalanced by another fan’s obsession with Trevor Bauer’s training regimen. There are as many swaths of fine folks in our fair land that are befuddled by Felix Hernandez’s win column not indicating his quality as there are who argue that Miami’s new home run sculpture thingy is awesome/hideous. I’ve been to a Giants game with a 5 year-old boy who was visibly disappointed upon finding out that the players weren’t actually “giant” and equally confused when I tried to explain that the other team was named after a very inanimate mountain range.
I’m fortunate to have a job where I basically shoot the shit with loads of different people from different walks of life. One thing that has always struck me when baseball becomes the topic of conversation is what people are most eager to discuss. Sometimes it’s current big leaguers, sometimes its their favorite retired player, sometimes it’s the prospects their chosen club has coming through the pipeline. This time of year the mood is optimistic and for the most part, it is relentlessly positive. Baseball looks different to different people, but it’s the game as a whole and the transfixing nature it imposes on those who follow it either casually or passionately, that I respect.
A new season begins this week.
as for me, I’m becoming more and more obsessed with prospects and minor leagues and the various, miscellaneous cast of characters that lie therein. I anticipate writing about them often, though I’m not studied enough to write things about the tilt on a slider or the grade for a prospect’s speed, and I damn sure can’t assess the movable target that is “hit” tool. I’m more interested in the stories of baseball. Also, I’m about the farthest thing from a professional writer, as you can undoubtedly tell. I welcome feedback about the stories or the emotions, but if you’re just going to tell me not to quit my day job, don’t worry Mr. Jerkface, I’m not.
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