I promised myself I wouldn’t write about politics this week — as difficult as that might be this month when even a fly on the Vice President’s head can foster political commentary.
But I shall remain resolute to my promise.
So I’m asking you, for a few minutes, to forget about Republicans vs. Democrats or the campaigns for Selma’s Mayor, City Council and school board. Because there is another competition that deserves your attention.
Welcome to the climax of baseball season.
Yes, baseball. What once was America’s Pastime has been described as slow, old-fashioned and behind-the-times. It has long since been replaced by rock-em, sock-em football as America’s favorite spectator sport.
But some of us still prefer more finesse and less violence.
In this season, trimmed from 162 games to 60 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball took some liberties with its rules regarding extra innings, relief pitchers and the designated hitter.
But the basics of baseball remain the same as they have been for more than 100 years. And the Grand Old Game is different from just about every other sport that uses a ball.
Baseball has no score that you must reach, as in tennis and volleyball. It does not have a time clock, as do football, soccer, basketball and hockey.
And, unlike every other ball sport, the ball itself does not score. The player scores, even while the ball is rolling around somewhere on the grass.
Its playing field is not square or rectangular. It is diamond shaped.
The defensive team controls the ball, not the offensive team.
The game is not played in quarters, halves or periods. Instead, its frame is nine innings. And each team gets the ball in each inning.
And then there is the element that absolutely makes basketball an outlier in team sports — the batting order. In other games, when it comes to crunch time, you turn to your superstar such as Brady, Jordan or Gretzky. In baseball, you might need a run in the ninth inning and your seventh, eighth and ninth batters are coming up.
In the 1990s and early 2000s our family hosted several foreign exchange students. Often they were sports-oriented boys from Europe who were eager to learn about baseball. They would ask me, “How long is a baseball game?”
Well since there is no score you have to achieve, and no time limit, that question is not easily answerable.
To explain baseball, you have to explain innings. To explain innings, you have to explain outs. To explain outs, you have to explain balls, strikes, force outs and tag outs.
That’s a lot off explaining.
But my favorite foreign-student baseball story is when Raul Antequera from Spain (Selma High Class of 1995) and I were watching baseball on television and a large-body slugger came to the plate (think David Ortiz or Pablo Sandoval).
Raul was a tennis player, runner and bicycle rider and his experience with professional athletes was from tennis, bicycle racing and soccer — three of the most popular sports in Europe.
So his question was natural: “Dad, how can a big-butt guy Iike that be a professional athlete?”
My answer then, as it is today when all kinds of wackiness occurs on the diamond, was simple:
“Hey, it’s baseball.”
Longtime Selma resident Ken Robison is a retired newspaper reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. “Selma Stories” runs regularly in The Enterprise.
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