The Best Month in Sports, Part 2: The Return of Baseball

The best month in sports continued this week with the start of baseball that matters. The first few days have already given us some great moments. The Triple-A squad that are pretending to be the Houston Astros played and won their first game in the American League, but then were almost victims of a perfect game the next night. Bryce Harper became the youngest player to hit two homeruns on Opening Day. It is always amazing to watch Justin Verlander at work. And don’t worry, if you missed any of the Yankees/Red Sox series, I’m sure ESPN will show every single game for the rest of the year. I could go on and on about what this season might bring, but if you’re looking for me to break down the league player by player, team by team, or division by division, then you’ve come to the wrong place. What I’d like to do here is explore why baseball is so special and what this game has meant to me.
Throughout the years, the game of baseball has certainly had its share of problems. From the color barrier to the steroid problem to work stoppages, the sport that once ruled the country has certainly taken a hit in popularity. Television ratings are down, as are attendance figures. Football has blown by it as the most popular sport in America. So why do I keep coming back every single year? What is it about baseball that makes me so sentimental?
Maybe it’s the fact that baseball was my first love. Maybe it’s the fact that one of the main reasons I know how to read is that I used to sit on my grandfather’s lap as a child as we read the Chicago Tribune to catch up on our beloved Chicago Cubs (yes I know, even more torture to myself). Maybe it was playing home run derby in the street with my friends until we couldn’t even see the ball. Maybe it was catching the end of a game on WGN when I got home from school. Maybe it was a 75 cent pack of Topps cards if my mom let me get them at the grocery store. Maybe it was a fun rivalry with my dad, a lifelong Cardinals fan, watching a weekend series at Busch. Maybe it’s taking a break from working in the yard, having a cold drink and listening to the game on the radio. Maybe it’s because that every time I walk up the ramp at Wrigley Field and see the scoreboard, the green grass, and the ivy, I immediately turn into my eight year old self again.
Or maybe it’s just the game itself. Maybe it’s a suicide squeeze. Maybe it’s a 5-4-3 double play. Maybe it’s a 95 mph fastball followed by an 85 mph breaking ball that buckles a batter’s knees. Maybe it’s a ball that’s certain to leave the yard until an outfielder reaches over the fence to bring it back. Maybe it’s watching a group of innocent kids in a little league game that play for the love of the game. Maybe it’s watching a minor leaguer in countless small towns throughout the country strive to achieve his dream of one day making it to the show. Maybe it’s watching your favorite big league ballplayer hit a walkoff bomb and seeing the joy on his face as he rounds third toward the mob that awaits him at home plate. Maybe it’s just watching the complexities within the simplicity that is the game of baseball.
Whatever it is, baseball is back. Will I be watching? Definitely.

Upcoming Series: The Best Month in Sports

Starting on Monday, I will be starting a series entitled “The Best Month in Sports”.  Just look at what this month has to offer. We are already being captivated by the madness that is the NCAA tournament.  Early April brings the return of baseball.  Soon after, one of my favorite events of the year occurs at Augusta National in the form of The Masters, quickly followed by the start of the NBA playoffs.  With each segment of this series, I’ll take a closer look at what makes each of these events so enjoyable.

One quick note: For you NHL fanatics, I did not forget about you. The reasons that I did not include the start of the NHL playoffs in this series are these: 1) This year’s playoffs do not fall within the month I’m referring to. But more importantly is 2) I am not going to pretend to attempt to write about a sport that I do not follow all that closely. Believe me, it would be an insult to you.  I can tell you, however, that even though hockey is not my favorite sport, there are few sporting events more exciting or more intense than a Game 7 in the NHL playoffs.

And one small rant.  This month does also not include the NFL.  I am completely aware that we live in a country where the NFL is king and when football season rolls around, I’m sure I will discuss it at length. I love football just as much as the next guy. But for now, I really don’t want to hear about it when there isn’t a game that matters for five months. If you want your fix, just turn on ESPN Radio in the morning and listen, believe me.  With so many other stories going on in sports, do I really need to hear a two hour conversation about how The Tuck Rule is finally going away?  The answer to that riddle is no.  We all know that Raider nation is still pissed off so how about paying some attention to something else.

I’ll talk to you all on Monday with “The Best Month in Sports, Part 1: The NCAA Tournament”.