The boys of summer
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
The highlight of my baseball-playing career came in second grade with the Little League Giants in Chariton, Iowa, when a pitcher for the Indians hit me in the side with a fastball and I reached first base.
I probably still have that bruise.
Suffice it to say, I was never that great of a ball player. I was never even that respectable of a ball player. You know that one guy on the team where the opposing outfielders all move up to the fringe of the infield before he comes to the plate? I was that guy.
Even so, I've always loved baseball. It doesn't matter what division, whether it's eight year olds playing Dixie Youth baseball to the "ping" of Notre Dame's bats in the 2002 College World Series, or the sound of Brian McCann's catcher's glove as a John Smoltz fastball hits the leather.
I've heard every complaint that people have about the game of baseball, and I have a response to all of those complaints.
Too much of a low scoring game? – Watch televised Scrabble, then.
Steroids have made the major league a joke? – Go to Dixie Youth or high school games. The kids may be big, but that's more because of Big Macs than because of BALCO.
Too many breaks in the action? – You try playing a game for three hours non-stop.
Yes, football may be king in the South, and basketball might have much higher scoring games and more displays of athleticism, but I'll take home runs and no-hitters any day of the week.
You simply can't help but be impressed by baseball players. Just think about it.
You have a spheroid projectile flying at you at speeds of over 90 mph. With movement. And less than a second to react. And nine players ready to field the ball if you do manage to somehow make contact.
No wonder even the best players fail seven out of 10 times.
Baseball is the great chess game. In football, coaches can call plays based on how they think the defense will react, and in tennis you have to try and predict where your opponent will be before you hit the ball, but when it comes to mind games there's no better sport than baseball.
Baseball is the great equalizer. Yes, there is an advantage to being a muscled behemoth when it comes to hitting home runs, but then you have guys like the Chicago Cubs' Greg Maddux – who looks more like a college professor than one of the best pitchers to ever play the game.
Baseball has the most vibrant history and tradition of any of the major American sports. The names and phrases dance off the tongue – Steve Bartman, Eddie Gaedel, "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain," Bobby Thomson's shot heard 'round the world, "first in war, first in peace, last in the American League."
It's All Star time in Morgan County, and there's plenty to be proud of when it comes to our local future major leaguers. Let's give our congratulations and good luck wishes to all our teams as they advance in their respective tournaments.
And let's get ready to play ball!