Wednesday, April 23, 2014

baseball, artfully

photo by gregory a. milinovich, taken in warriors mark, pa., april 21, 2014

have i mentioned how much i love baseball?  

okay, good.  because it's true.  

i was reminded of that again the other day when i stumbled across this wonderful little article containing one writer's 25 favorite songs about baseball (he neglected to include anything from my favorite baseball album "Roberto Clemente: Un Tributo Musical").  it wasn't so much the songs he picked or his description of them that captured my attention, as it was his brief analysis about why baseball inspires such great art.  among other things, he writes, 

People who complain that baseball games are too slow are the kind of people who would rather watch cop shows on TV than read a good book. Perhaps that’s why football does better on the tube, while baseball does better at the library. The patient, burst-and-pause pace of baseball is not a drawback; it’s the sport’s greatest asset. (Geoffrey Himes, in "the curmedgeon: baseball songs,"  pastemagazine.com, april 22, 2014)
i couldn't agree more.  when people complain that baseball is too slow, i cringe.  you see, part of the great beauty of baseball is in its pace, its staccato rhythm, in which action is followed by a chance to gather, regroup, reflect, and move forward.  it is a sport ripe with pregnant pauses, which gives it room to breath, and offers spectators the opportunity to muse, to write, to anticipate, to remember, and to dream.  himes goes on to say that the lack of a mask or any major padding to the body makes it one of the more human-looking of sports as well, giving the viewer an easier avenue into imagining one's self on the field.

i can relate.  i took a walk the other day, while visiting my wife's family, and came across a group of little league baseball fields in the mid-morning sun.  they are positioned in central pennsylvania, overlooking a rolling vista of cornfields, which causes their low-cut green grass to stand in wonderful contrast, like something out of a "field of dreams" location.  it being a weekday morning, there was no one on the fields.  just me.  and a baseball i had found in the cornfield.  so i mentally envisioned the game.  i was the shortstop.  i was the pitcher.  i was the catcher, crouching, calling for a fastball, high and tight.  i was the batter, settling in, muscles tensed, poised.  i watched the graceful trajectory of the ball in my mind's eye, a pleasing parabola.  i was the baserunner, advancing to third on the hit, a tumbleweed of energy and sinew, grinding and sliding for the bag.  i was the third basemen, bent low, catching the beamed throw from right, swiping the leather down to apply the tag.  i was the umpire, calling loudly with conviction:  SAFE!  i was the crowd, enthusiastic, hopeful.

sure, it was just a little league field on a monday morning, but baseball does this to me.  it calls me into a magical place where miracles happen.  it is less feeding frenzy, and more musical masterpiece, with ebbs and flows, crescendos and decrescendos, half notes and whole rests.  it is a canvas upon which paint isn't thrown on in wild, raving fury, but is applied carefully, artfully.  whether it's on an empty little league field, watching a real game from the stands while enjoying a cold beverage, or checking the scores on my smartphone, waiting to see what happens on this 3-2 pitch with runners on the corners and two outs, it is magical and musical, all of it.  it may be slow, but only in the way that a delicious steak is best enjoyed patiently, without shoveling it down like a Big Mac; or in the way that a backrub is most perfectly delivered: carefully, intentionally, and deliberately.  baseball is slow in the same way that breathing is slow when you are perfectly content and the temperature is just right and the only difference between this and heaven is that you know this can't last.  baseball is slow like that.  like a masterpiece. like music.  like art.

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