Weekly Feature

2018-03-07 / Editorials

Baseball an antidote for today’s bad news

Managing Editor

Trade wars. Tariffs. Fake news. A suicide outside the White House. Resignations from the White House staff. School shootings. Bump stocks. An American president for life. Supersonic nuclear weapons.

What about batting averages and bat speed?

Later this month, the cry of “play ball” will resound again in major league ballparks, signaling the start of the 2018 season. Thank goodness.

Baseball is a simple game that does not require much to play or to watch. Even the most unfamiliar fan can follow along via the electronic changes on today’s modern scoreboards. If you know there are a maximum of three strikes, a maximum of four balls and a maximum of three outs, you’re OK. Keep in mind that there is no maximum number of innings.

“We don’t know when it’s going to end,” shouted a gleeful George Carlin in a famous sketch in which he compared baseball to football. Baseball triumphed.

The game is simple. All you need is a glove, a bat – and a ball. It needs to be a genuine hardball, not a tennis ball or a rubber ball the same size.

I have baseballs all over the place. There are two in my office: a clean one hit by Jorge Posada during batting practice in Cleveland and a grungy one that someone hit over the left-field fence at St. Bonaventure University.

This month, as baseball begins anew, I thought I would inventory just how many baseballs I possess. The grand total is now 130.

There are 14 in the garage, most of them scuffed from unforgiving asphalt or stained from still-slick grass. Some baseballs were purchased new, just for the purpose of possibly having them autographed.

Some were bought at special events, such as all-star games in Detroit, Pittsburgh and New York. Two came from the World Series in the Motor City. One was a gift from my uncle, signed by the Cleveland Indians from the mid-’60s.

The last time I was at Yankee Stadium was during Derek Jeter’s final season. I spotted the commemorative ball with the distinctive number 2 printed on it and snatched it up with no regard for the cost. (It was $40.)

On the afternoon of the Home Run Derby during All-Star Week in Cincinnati, I noticed that a ball had ended up near a gutter on the second level, just outside the press box. A sympathetic usher helped me add it to my collection.

Others are from my son’s Little League games, or those he and I employed for a game of catch. If only the mud embedded beneath those red stitches could talk.

Even the generic baseballs that do not have a place of honor in my house mean something to me. They represent a connection to a special stadium, a sunny afternoon keeping score, or at the very least, time spent with my family.

I find myself at the point in my life when I feel the need to share. Any routine baseball that comes my way from this point forward will be given to the nearest kid in the stands.

That does not include the Buffalo Bisons game coming up on Aug. 22. That’s the date of Mystery Ball Night, when fans can buy an autographed ball for $20. The joy is in unwrapping it and seeing who signed it. Proceeds go to charity.

No nuclear weapons allowed.

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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