Contact Sports: Out to the ball game

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 18, 2002


Maybe it’s the absence of the immediate action of moving the ball back and forth among players, trying not to let the opposing team gain control. Maybe some people don’t see the game as a one on one confrontation, with decisions happening coded hand signals. But for whatever reason, bleachers behind home plate see far less people than, say a basketball game.

From my point of view, it’s the only game where you can relax for about two hours and chose whether to follow the game’s strategy closely, or sit back and spit sunflower seeds waiting for a grand slam. As with other out-door sports like soccer and football, no matter how involved the fans are, there’s always the added benefit of what most Louisianians enjoy, being outside. I completely understand how hard it is to turn on a baseball game and sit on the couch for a full nine innings, it just loses the “past time” mystique. But being outside, so close to a player giving everything to cross that first base or that home plate to beat the baseball makes the excitement.

In all sports there are those moments when the focus is on one player. In football, there’s the quarterback standing above the rest calling the shots then rearing back to hopefully throw the ball. In basketball, one player stands at the free throw line while nine others wait for a rebound. At times when some fans may wonder what any people see in this game, others are debating what strategy the pitcher will attempt for the next 50 mile an hour strike. The pitcher peers to the catcher, glances over to first base to keep the runner in check, then swings into a fluid rotation, which would make a contortionist jealous, and hurls the ball. Now it’s up to the batter, who has less than a second to decide, hit or let it go. For those who may see this timed sequence as pitch and catch and maybe hit thrown in, try stepping up to the plate, or listening to a batter walk off in disbelief after swinging for a third strike. “Change up inside, man, a change up inside,” was the most recent words I heard from a batter as he shook his head and walked to the dugout. Quarterbacks through some great passes, guards put up beautiful three point shots, but what pitchers can do with a small lump of leather is magical. I know I’ve tried to throw a baseball with the correct spin for a curve, slider or sinker, but I think it was because I didn’t do try it from a mound that was the problem.

With the generally nice weather around here and the impressive ballparks in the area, I just don’t understand why more people don’t decide to enjoy live baseball games. After all, when the game’s broken down, it’s about the same length as most other sports and quite a few of the players also play for other sports. At the very least it’s interesting to see how a quarterback works the infield.

ROBERT L. LEE is the sports editor, you may contact him at 985-652-9545.