Archived Story

Baseball brings change, great expectations

Published 11:12am Thursday, February 20, 2014

It’s here, and not a moment too soon for me. Since moving from southern California to central Alabama in 1993, I have experienced a lot of changes, most of which are welcomed and sometimes even exciting. I can watch the leaves turn in the fall, watch winter say hello with a few snow showers and during the spring, I look forward to everything the season brings to the South.
But the most important thing that California and Alabama have in common is its love for sports and for me, baseball takes center stage. Sure, I like other sports, but baseball is our national pastime and my choice for a favorite sport.
There are many reasons why, but I do not wish to bore anyone with my past. Just know this: baseball saved me from heading in the wrong direction and protected me when I needed it the most.
I am a purist when it comes to baseball.  I want the game played the way it was intended to be played. I want the uniforms worn with the utmost respect for those who once donned the uniform.
Anyone remember last season’s College World Series?
Did anyone but me notice the drastic difference between the eventual champion UCLA and runner-up Mississippi State?
The entire Bruins squad looked like they were playing back in the ‘60s. You could actually see their stirrups, and none of them had facial hair.
By the way, they actually moved runners the old-school way.
They bunted runners over into scoring position and found a way to score with what has become a lost art – small ball.
I am against beards and long hair, and I hate the middleman, the set-up man and the long reliever.
I still do not like the designated hitter, and I never will.
There are players who I would like to forget, such as Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez, but because of their infamous past, I must accept the fact that what they represent will not go away any time soon. I understand that there are some things that evolve with the times, but playing baseball the correct way will never change.
At the high school level, you see just about every type of player.
The one player I will always admire is the guy who usually does not start, but tries to make up for his playing deficiencies with generous doses of what the hard-rock disciplinarians in the athletic realm like to refer to as leadership qualities.
This kid is usually a short, muscular, pimpled, second-string catcher whose specialty it is to assure you when your team is behind 23-2 that, “this thing isn’t over yet” or, “we’re starting to get to this guy now.”
Then you hear his pithy exhortations, like, “way to fire” and, “let’s hear a little chatter out there.”
They are also given to intense displays of unwarranted physical activity, from excessive fanny-patting to threats to lay someone out in the dugout.
Fortunately, these little bastions of insecurity are usually prevented by their lack of talent from progressing much farther than the sandlots, although occasionally one will leak into organized ball.
Sandlots; Did I get your attention here?  That was an attempt to get you to continue reading this column.
Now, the kids are playing baseball under the best conditions,  wearing the nicest uniforms, and they are never short of coaches; whether said coaches are on the field or in the stands.
The ex-players make terrific fans when their playing days are over though, almost as if this had been their true calling all along.
They always come to the game, stand near the fence – just close enough to be in shouting distance of the playing field – heckle indiscriminately, and then they manage to end up sitting near me.
They always know more than the coaches. Their kid is a member of the team, but no one seems to know why.
Until next time …
Meyers is a sports columnist for The Outlook. You can follow him on Twitter @brucemeyers11.

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