O Canada Our Home And Native Land!
The almost entirely meaningless World Baseball Classic is underway, and Canada’s schedule kicked off yesterday with a game against the U.S. in Toronto. The game will already be decided when this post goes up. I am writing it during the first inning with the score already 1-0 for Canada. So there is some hope for the home side. Baseball season always begins with a lot of fanfare for those who love the game. Even though we are 7 months from the World Series, and the WBC is in many ways a less than stellar exercise (I happen to love international baseball), the boys of summer have arrived.
A lot of people don’t understand why anyone likes baseball. They find it long and boring. I can’t argue against that because if you don’t already like baseball you might never. I will say though that if you are a patriotic sort of person the WBC is your chance to get excited about the sport. Although you’ve already missed Canada vs. the U.S., there will be more Canadian games, including the possibility of a rematch or two with those Americans. Give it a shot, I think you’ll find that the most pastoral of games is for you.
Why do I love baseball? Well for one I started playing when I was 4 and didn’t stop until after my 23rd birthday, so it’s been a major part of my life. I will probably play many more times before I die. It’s a game where individual performance is paramount. No one can help you succeed out on the field. A great receiver can make a mediocre QB better, a great PG elevates the game of their teammates, and a strong centre will help his/her wings score a lot of goals, but in baseball your teammates aren’t really going to affect your performance. In the same way a player can’t be saved by schemes or plays. For example, Steve Nash’s game was elevated by playing in the seven seconds or less offence. The batter stands at the plate alone, with only himself to control his performance. Other than during ball in play situations, when fielders must cover their positions, baseball is a one on one game. Baseball is not necessarily better than other sports, but this unique feature of the game sets it apart from others. People often write about team chemistry, but unlike in more team oriented sports, I don’t think it’s that big of a factor in baseball. I played on a team with some people I couldn’t stand, but I still had a great season. Once you are at the plate, on the mound, or in the field, it’s just you and the ball.
It’s also hard to deny that the opportunity for individual glory is an attractive part of the game. A dominant pitching performance is beautiful to watch, and there is nothing more exciting than a sliding triple. Nevermind the joy that comes from a walk off home run. In baseball there can be a sudden death style finish every single game, no matter what the score is going into the ninth inning. As has been written many times before baseball games are open ended. Without a clock an inning they can last indefinitely, meaning no lead is safe until every out is recorded. Baseball is a game of hope.
Hopefully I will be able to add a note to tomorrow’s post that Mike Johnson (who just K’d two Americans in the first inning) pulled off another big win over the U.S..