Despite scandals, baseball will prevail

carson.lemahieu

One of my earliest childhood memories is of me and my dad playing catch in our backyard. This became almost a ritual for the two of us. We would head outside after we finished dinner and sometimes would spend hours just tossing the ball back and forth until it became too dark to see.

My dad taught me more than just how to play the game. He also taught me the rich and colorful past of the sport. Before I could even read, my dad bought me an encyclopedia of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a hardcover book with a page dedicated to the story of each former player enshrined at Cooperstown.

Every night before bed he would read the stories of baseball’s greats to me.

I heard the story of how Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese walked onto the field amid boos and racial slurs, and put his arm around Jackie Robinson in a historical show of friendship and camaraderie. I learned the story of Three Finger Brown and how he had his hand mangled in an accident with a wheat thrasher. Instead of accepting his handicap, Brown went on to be one of the most successful pitchers of his era. Most moving of all for me, was the story of Roberto Clemente’s untimely death while flying emergency aid to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. More touching than his accident and selfless death is the story of his best friend and teammate Manny Sanguillen skipping his funeral, instead opting to conduct his own futile search for Clemente’s body.

Unfortunately, great stories like these have become the exception instead of the norm. Instead of heroes, we have been given steroid-injected cheaters and multi-million dollar complainers.

Gone are the intriguing human stories and loyalty to teams and fans that were the embodiment of baseball’s past. These aspects of the game have been replaced with newspaper headlines about steroid reports and players complaining that their multi-million dollar contracts aren’t enough.

The latter of these bared its ugly head this offseason when Manny Ramirez turned down a one-year $20 million contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In decades past, this would have been enough money to cover the entire salary of many teams. Yet, this offseason, it wasn’t enough money just for Manny.

Those of us who hoped that baseball could use this season to begin moving past it’s steroid-stained past had a rough winter, as well. We were all disappointed this February when news broke that Alex Rodriguez, someone considered by many to be a shining beacon for how the game should be played, had used steroids.

However, despite all the short-comings of the modern game, I still await the opening day of baseball season (April 5 this year) with a vaulted anticipation usually reserved for a kid on Christmas morning. No matter how stained the game of baseball is, it has a special magical quality that I just can’t escape.

Sometimes, people ask me how I can love baseball; how I can love a game so plagued with scandals, steroids, and overpaid jerks. My answer to this is a simple one.

I love the feel of the leather of a baseball glove against my palm. I love the excitement and precision of a 6-4-3 double play. I love the green grass of the outfield lit up like midday on a warm summer’s night. I love the taste of a ballpark hotdog smothered in stadium sauce. Most of all, I love the childhood memories of playing catch with my dad in the backyard.

For me, and millions like me, baseball will never change, no matter how tainted the game seems. It will still be 90 feet from third base to home, three strikes and you’re out, and the seventh inning stretch. It will always be the great American past time.

This summer, instead of paying attention to the steroid scandals, or taking part in feeding the salaries of money-hungry players who will do anything to increase their marketability, take a few hours to gather up some friends and head to the nearest ball diamond to play a quick game. At the very least, take ten minutes to go outside and toss a ball around.

These are the moments that make the sport such an unforgettable experience.